10 fire service incidents that defined the decade

From dangerous structure fires to active shooter events, firefighters faced many significant incidents in the 2010s


By FireRescue1 Staff

The 2010s were difficult years for public safety, with active shooter events, the opioid crisis and budget cuts amplifying risks to first responders and straining agency resources.

The decade saw several major fire incidents, from devastating structural fires to sweeping wildfires, as well as the deaths of many first responders from Ground Zero-related illnesses.

A firefighter douses flames at the Notre Dame cathedral fire in April 2019. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
A firefighter douses flames at the Notre Dame cathedral fire in April 2019. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

As we head into 2020, we reflect on the past 10 years of historic fire service incidents that defined the decade, in the United States and abroad, and share some of FireRescue1’s coverage of the events.

2019: Notre Dame Cathedral fire – Paris, France

A massive fire devastated large parts of the 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15-16, 2019. Approximately 400 firefighters battled the blaze for two days, saving the structure of the gothic cathedral after a fire gutted the roof and destroyed the spire. Despite the enormity of the fire, no lives were lost.

FireRescue1 coverage:

2018: Camp Fire – Paradise, California

Damage to an electrical transmission line on Camp Creek Road sparked mammoth fires in Northern California on Nov. 8, 2018. When the Camp Fire was contained on Nov. 25, 2018, it had burned 153,336 acres and destroyed nearly 14,000 residences in the town of Paradise, with 85 civilian fatalities, making it the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history. But fire destruction for the entire year was much greater, making 2018 California’s worst ever year for fire events.

FireRescue1 coverage:

A home burns as the Camp Fire rages through Paradise, California in November 2018. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
A home burns as the Camp Fire rages through Paradise, California in November 2018. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

2017: Grenfell Tower fire – London, England

A small refrigerator fire ravaged the 24-story Grenfell Tower apartment building in London on June 14, 2017. Seventy-one people were killed, making the fire Great Britain’s deadliest in decades. Firefighters saved 223 residents.

FireRescue1 coverage:

Smoke and flames rise from the Grenfell Tower in London in June 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Smoke and flames rise from the Grenfell Tower in London in June 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

2017: Route 91 Harvest festival shooting – Las Vegas, Nevada

A gunman opened fire on 22,000 Las Vegas concert attendees from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on Oct. 1, 2017. Fifty-eight people were killed and more than 500 were injured in the deadliest mass shooting in the United States.

FireRescue1 coverage:

Police officers and medical personnel stand at the scene of a shooting near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip on Oct. 2, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Police officers and medical personnel stand at the scene of a shooting near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip on Oct. 2, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

2016: Ghost Ship warehouse fire – Oakland, California

Thirty-six people died when a fire swept through an Oakland, California, warehouse. The building, known as the Ghost Ship, contained several artist studios and was an illegal home for a dozen or more people.

FireRescue1 coverage:

An aerial image shows the Ghost Ship Warehouse after a fire swept through the Oakland, California, building. (KGO-TV via AP)
An aerial image shows the Ghost Ship Warehouse after a fire swept through the Oakland, California, building. (KGO-TV via AP)

2013: Yarnell Hill Fire – Yarnell, Arizona

A grass fire ignited by lightning near the small town of Yarnell, Arizona, on June 28, overran and killed 19 Prescott firefighters who were members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. The Yarnell Hill Fire is the most fatal incident of any kind involving U.S. firefighters since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

FireRescue1 coverage:

An honor guard presents families with an American flag during a memorial service in Prescott Valley, Arizona, Tuesday, July 9, 2013, for the 19 Granite Mountain hotshot firefighters that were killed while battling the Yarnell Hill Fire. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, David Kadlubowski, Pool)
An honor guard presents families with an American flag during a memorial service in Prescott Valley, Arizona, Tuesday, July 9, 2013, for the 19 Granite Mountain hotshot firefighters that were killed while battling the Yarnell Hill Fire. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, David Kadlubowski, Pool)

2013: Fertilizer plant explosion – West, Texas

On April 17, 2013, an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, leveled part of the small town. Of the 14 victims, most were first responders from fire departments in West and nearby towns.

FireRescue1 coverage:

This April 18, 2013, aerial photo shows a crater, bottom left, the the remains of a fertilizer plant destroyed by an explosion in West, Texas. The massive explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. killed at least 14 people and injured more than 160. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
This April 18, 2013, aerial photo shows a crater, bottom left, the the remains of a fertilizer plant destroyed by an explosion in West, Texas. The massive explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. killed at least 14 people and injured more than 160. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

2013: Southwest Inn fire – Houston, Texas

Four firefighters searching for people they believed might be trapped in the blazing Southwest Inn motel in Houston were killed on May 31, 2013, when part of the structure collapsed. At least five other firefighters were injured as flames shot from the roof of the motel and an adjoining restaurant. The fire marked the single worst loss of life in the Houston Fire Department’s history.

FireRescue1 coverage:

Firefighters battle a blaze at the Southwest Inn, Friday, May 31, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/KTRK-TV, Kevin Quinn)
Firefighters battle a blaze at the Southwest Inn, Friday, May 31, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/KTRK-TV, Kevin Quinn)

2012: Webster ambush on firefighters – Webster, New York

On Christmas Eve 2012, a gunman ambushed firefighters after luring them to a house fire he had set. The gunman, a convicted killer, shot four firefighters, killing two – Michael Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka – and seriously injuring the others. He then killed himself. Seven homes were destroyed as firefighters waited for police to secure the scene.

FireRescue1 coverage:

Nicholas Chiapperini holds the helmet of his father, Lt. Mike Chiapperini, during a funeral service in Webster, N.Y. Lt. Mike Chiapperini and fellow firefighter Tomasz Kaczowka were slain by a gunman in a fiery Christmas Eve ambush. (AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli)
Nicholas Chiapperini holds the helmet of his father, Lt. Mike Chiapperini, during a funeral service in Webster, N.Y. Lt. Mike Chiapperini and fellow firefighter Tomasz Kaczowka were slain by a gunman in a fiery Christmas Eve ambush. (AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli)

Ongoing: Deaths from Ground Zero-related illness

In July, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the 200th NYC firefighter had died from a disease related to working at Ground Zero after the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Since 9/11, firefighters and other responders have succumbed to Ground Zero-related illnesses, such as pulmonary fibrosis and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The responders and their families continue to need help. In July 2019, President Donald Trump signed a bill ensuring that a victims' compensation fund related to the attacks never runs out of money.

FireRescue1 coverage:

With the skeleton of the World Trade Center twin towers in the background, FDNY firefighters work amid debris on Cortlandt St. after the terrorist attacks of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
With the skeleton of the World Trade Center twin towers in the background, FDNY firefighters work amid debris on Cortlandt St. after the terrorist attacks of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

 

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