Firefighters Gather To Mark 35th Anniversary Of Deadly Sheepshead Bay Waldbaum’s Fire


This Friday, August 2, marked the 35th anniversary of the tragic fire at Waldbaum’s former site on Ocean Avenue. NY1 reported that firefighters and families gathered in Midwood to commemorate the fallen.

The fire, which we have written about in the past, happened in 1978 on the corner of Avenue Y and Ocean Avenue, where Staples stands now. The blaze took the lives of six firefighters, which at the time, was the largest loss of firefighters in a single fire in Brooklyn history.

Firemen FF George Rice, 38, Ladder 153; FF James McManus, 48; Cov. Lt. James Cutillo, 39, 33rd Battalion; FF Harold Hastings, 39, 42nd Battalion; FF Charles Bouton, 38, Ladder 156; and William O’Connor, 29 of Ladder 156 were the heroes who tragically lost their lives that day.

Thirty-four other firemen were injured in the fire and NY1 spoke to survivors who attended the gathering:

Two retired firefighters who survived the blaze, Donald King and Thomas Higgins, were among the attendees.

“Every day, I remember everybody that died in that fire,” King said. “I found a way to get out. I jumped through the cockloft, landed on the floor below, and Tommy Higgins, of all people, led me through the store.”

“I walked over to aisle two, found one of the guys of my company on all fours, helped him out, walked out together and realized what happened. A morning I’ll never forget,” Higgins said.

Christine Pagliaroli, Hastings’ daughter, said her family was getting ready to go on vacation when they received the tragic news.

“He didn’t belong on the roof but he volunteered because that was the kind of a person he was. It was also his time to be off, but he was helping out because it was a big fire,” Pagliaroli said. “He was supposed to leave that morning. Our family was packed and ready to go to Walt Disney World for our first time. So he volunteered to stay, he called my mom and said, ‘It’s a big fire, I have to stay.’ And, he never came home.”

For more information on the fallen and the survivors, you can visit a Facebook page that commemorates their actions by clicking here.

  • bagels

    Very poignant video. Thanks for posting.

  • zen3344

    Some of the last photos, facing east on Avenue Y towards Ocean Avenue, have E321 in them. That was my neighborhood fire station (I lived on W and Bragg). I remember that day well. I wonder how many of the kids that work in the Staples that’s on the site now ask about “Fireman’s Corner”.
    May the souls of the six firefighters lost that day rest in eternal peace. May The Almighty forever watch over their families.

  • Maxwell Smart

    Let this be a reminder what a perilous career it is to serve FDNY NYPD

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