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“The Great Lynn Fire of 1981”
by Jay Pozark

In the early morning hours of Saturday, November 28, 1981 Lynn was ravaged by the second largest fire in its history. 

The first call, a telephone alarm from Lynn Police Department, was received at 0235 Hours. The Fire Alarm Operators on duty struck City Box #414. Initial response was 2 Engine Companies, 1 Ladder Company and 1 District Chief. The first engine to arrive found fire showing from the first floor front of the building at 264-266 Broad St. This was an 8 story, brick and wood joist, loft type building approximately 60' wide by 300' deep. The building was under demolition and the rear 30' had been removed. The sprinkler system had been shut down. The Lieutenant on this engine ordered a "Working Fire" response at 0238 Hours. This dispatched 1Engine Company, 1 Ladder Company, and 1 Rescue/Ambulance Company in addition to the Box Alarm units.

When the first chief officer (East Lynn District Chief) arrived, he found the first due engine company taking the plug in front of the fire building. The second due engine was laying a 2 1/2" line down the alley between the fire building and a similar building exposure. The first due truck company was throwing their stick. As the initial incident commander began a fireground survey this fire appeared no different from the many others over the years. 

As he reached the rear of the fire building he met an awesome sight. Heavy fire was visible on floors #3 and #4 with thick, black smoke and heavy fire rolling from floor #5. Immediately he ordered the Second Alarm at 0241 Hours and a Third Alarm a minute later at 0242 Hours. This brought 2 Engines Companies and 1 Ladder Company on each alarm and the other on duty District Chief with the second alarm. With the fire spreading rapidly and firefighter safety a priority the Incident Commander directed the exposed first alarm companies to back out. The building became fully involved. East Lynn District Fire Chief Paul Kirby ordered the Fourth Alarm. This was transmitted at 0245 Hours, ten minutes after the first alarm. 

The Second Alarm had notified the Deputy Fire Chief and Chief of Department and the Third alarm had started mutual aid fire companies relocating into the city. The Fourth Alarm response was the last on duty Lynn Engine Company and 1 Mutual Aid Engine Company. 

The Incident Commander directed all companies to go into Master Stream operations in an attempt to contain the fire and break up the waves of convected heat. With the building fully involved and companies going into guns, a full height collapse of one wall from the middle to front of the building extended the fire into exposures. District Chief Kirby once again had to order a withdrawal. Then he ordered the transmission of the Fifth Alarm. This brought 3 Mutual Aid Engine Companies and 1 Mutual Aid Ladder Company to the scene.

As the fifth alarm was being struck over the radio and tappers, the Chief of Department, Joseph E. Scanlon Jr. arrived. The collapsing walls and fire storm conditions and cut off and separated the firegound. With fire spreading and threatening the whole downtown, C-1 struck the Sixth and Seventh Alarms at 0252 Hours. Response, 6 Engine Companies and 2 Ladder Companies under the Mutual Aid Ten Alarm Plan. A minute later at 0253 Hours C-1 Special Called the departments other Rescue/Ambulance Company. This was followed by Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Alarms at 0255 Hours. 

At 0257 Hours, with the fire jumping over natural barriers, Chief of Department Scanlon made one of the rarest declarations a fire chief can make. He declared this fire, a conflagration. 

Over the next several hours fire companies from several counties and two states would respond to the City of Lynn. Ultimately 95 Engine Companies, 25 Ladder Companies, 2 Rescue/Ambulance Companies and 10 Civil Defense Fire Companies would operate at the fire. There were 4 Engine Companies being held in the staging area and 4 Engine Companies and 1 Ladder Company were covering in Lynn Stations. 

This fire damaged 26 structures, 18 totally destroyed, 3 with heavy damage and 6 with moderate damage. The All Out was sounded at 0800 Hours on Monday, December 14, 1981. That's right December.


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