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Ill. FD remembers firefighters killed in 1934 blaze

Aurora firefighters hold a ceremony to remember three firefighters killed in a collapse during the Woolworth fire

The Beacon-News

AURORA, Ill. — The Aurora Fire Department will hold a wreath-laying ceremony Thursday to honor three firefighters killed while battling a raging fire 90 years ago in the city’s downtown.

Thursday marks the 90th anniversary of the Woolworth fire, which claimed the lives of the three Aurora firefighters, the most killed in a single fire in the city’s history.

The Woolworth store at 19- 21 South Broadway caught on fire on Jan. 11, 1934. and claimed the lives of Capt. John Petersohn, 48; Capt. Herbert L. Reiss, 37; and Firefighter Charles Hoffman, 35. They were killed when part of the building collapsed on them as they were working to extinguish the flames, department officials said.

A memorial plaque was dedicated at the place of the fire in June 2006 as part of the 150th anniversary of the Aurora Fire Department. Every year since, firefighters, family members and residents have attended the memorial to reflect on the loss and courage of the firefighters who died battling the Woolworth fire.

The Aurora Fire Department will gather at 8:30 a.m. Thursday at the site of the fire, 19- 21 South Broadway, next to The Venue, for its annual wreath-laying event to honor the firefighters who lost their lives in the fire 90 years ago.

The public is welcome to attend the event, officials said.

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