Historical & Heritage

"Big Dan" Collapses

On June 10th, 1943 Ladder 1 also known as "Big Dan", responded to a structure fire at the Hotel Newhouse, located at 400 South and Main Street.  The first alarm was struck at 10:06 p.m.  Throughout the firefighting operations, "Big Dan" collapsed claiming the life of Lt. Paul Hamilton.  

For more information on the fire, please refer to the pdf accounts below:

Victory Theatre Fire Claims Three

On May 19th 1943, Fire at the Victory Theatre claimed the lives of Firefighter Harry Christensen, Lt. Melvin Hatch, and Firefighter Theron Johnson.

“The Victory Theater fire on May 19, 1943 took the lives of three Salt Lake City Firefighters. Station No. 2 responded to a call at No. 50 East Third South, shortly before 8:30 a.m. The Victory Theater was located mid-block between State and Main Streets. (Between what would later become Auerbach’s and the Paris Department Stores.)

The building was old but the theater was a popular place for entertainment during that time. According to the newspaper reports, Fire Chief LaVere M. Hanson indicated that there was no material evidence of arson and no evidence to support spontaneous combustion as a cause. An official investigation of the incident was held, but the result of the investigation and the official cause of the fire were not located in 1996.

In addition to the three fallen firefighters, Lt. William A. limb suffered back injuries when a ladder fell on him, Capt. A.R. Ward, who fought his way through ten feet of burning timbers and firefighter Luther A. Stroud, who was struck by a falling pipe were injured and hospitalized. Several other firefighters received bruises and were in shock and suffered from smoke inhalation. The three fallen firefighters, who were inside the building when the second floor balcony collapsed, landing on them, died instantly.

Harry Christensen joined the fire department in April of 1925.

Melvin L. Hatch had been a firefighter in Salt Lake  City since June of 1926.

Theron D. Johnson had been with the department since August of the previous year.

The Third South pumping plant had to be put into operation to fight the fire at the Victory Theater. Workmen from a local wrecking company began work tearing down the shell of the theater later in the day as a company of firefighters continued to pour water onto the charred rubble.”

"Victory Theatre Fire Claims Three" By Steve Lutz
3.1 MB


Excerpt from SLCFD 2010 Yearbook
5.8 MB


On a side note...

Captain Kyle Lavender's Grandfather Grant Walker and Great-uncle Theron Johnson both responded to this fire.  Kyle's Grandmother was notified by a family member at the hospital where the injured were taken that Grant had been seriously injured or was dead.  As she was preparing to go to the hospital, she was notified by her sister Shirley Johnson that it was in fact her husband Theron Johnson that had perished.  Theron and Shirley Johnson had a 15 month old daughter at the time.

Many years later when the beautiful memorial was dedicated at Station 1, Shirley and her daughter Kay, were able to come for the ceremonies and dedication service. Kyle was honored to be able to participate in that special service with them.

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