30 years ago: 3 Philadelphia firefighters killed in One Meridian Plaza fire

  • Source: WPVI-TV ABC 6 Philadelphia
  • Published: 02/23/2021 12:00 AM

VIDEO: Today marks 30 years since one of the worst high-rise fires in Philadelphia history. The deadly fire at One Meridian Plaza took place on February 23, 1991, across from City Hall, where the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton now stands. Firefighters David Holcombe, Phyllis McAllister and James Chappell lost their lives battling that blaze. The cause of the fire was traced to rags soaked in linseed oil left by workers. The fire started at 8:23 p.m. on that Saturday night in 1991. Arriving firefighters were met by flames shooting from the 22nd floor. They were also met by a series of mechanical failures inside the 38-story building. Elevators stopped, backup generators failed and a crucial internal water distribution system called a standpipe actually choked off water pressure. "They had a complete failure of all the fire protection systems and the electricity to the building, which allowed the fire to spread unchecked," said then-Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Roger Ulshafer at the time of the fire.


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