It’s one of the most tragic fires in the history of Boston, and it’s also one of the most forgotten.
Six firemen died and scores more were injured when the Luongo Restaurant in East Boston caught fire in 1942. After more than an hour, firefighters finally brought the blaze under control, but that’s when the tragedy struck.
The side wall of the building bulged and collapsed, trapping firefighters. An explosion sent six of them flying across the street.
But the fire and its devastation were short-lived in the minds of many Bostonians and in newspapers. That’s because the Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire killed nearly 500 people two weeks later.
“Because of the Cocoanut Grove fire people just forgot about these six firefighters, including me,” said Boston City Councilor Sal LaMattina.
LaMattina will be one of the people speaking at a ceremony Thursdasy afternoon to remember the fire and honor the firefighters who died 70 years ago Thursday. A memorial will be unveiled near the site of the fire in Maverick Square.
Because 492 people were killed in the Cocoanut Grove blaze, it became one of the nation’s deadliest fires, but no firefighters were lost.
“It’s a part of our history that is never brought up,” said Ernie Torgersen, the former executive director of East Boston Main Streets. “It’s sad.”
The memorial honoring the deceased firemen will be located in front of the new location of the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center where it’s president, Jack Cradock, has worked for 35 years.
Cradock said that he viewed the fallen firefighters as heroes and that they deserve recognition.
“We’re doing something that should have been done before and wasn’t done properly,” he said.
The pictures of the six firemen who died because of the blaze will be displayed on a memorial unveiled Thursday.
*Hoseman Francis J. Degan
*Hoseman John F. Foley
*Hoseman Edward F. Macomber
*Ladderman Daniel E. McGuire
*Hoseman Peter F. McMorrow
*Hoseman Malachi F. Reddington
While the Cocoanut Grove fire may have pushed the Luongo fire out of the minds of many Bostonians, it didn’t for the family members of the fallen firefighters.
Sally Glora’s uncle, Francis Degan, was killed in the Luongo fire. She said he didn’t know him, but knew the stories about him.
“It’s a really nice way to celebrate their lives and what they did with them,” she said. “It’s really a wonderful tribute to still remember these people after 70 years.”
“Finally these six firefighters will finally get the recognition … I’m excited to get a chance to honor the fallen firefighters.”
-City Councilor Sal LaMattina