At 10:15 pm, an alarm was received at Fire Alarm headquarters from Box 1514, Stuart and Carver Streets. It turned out to be a small automobile fire that was quickly extinguished. The firefighters then noticed smoke coming from the Cocoanut Grove a few doors away and rushed to the entrance of the Broadway Lounge. Upon reaching the night club premises, rescue work was begun by the firefighters who had responded to the automobile fire.
The first alarm for the Cocoanut Grove fire was sounded at Box 1521, Church and Winchester Streets and received at 10:20 pm. Eventually a total of five alarms were sounded.
From the Fire Report—District 7:
Chief of Department Samuel J. Pope was in command, with Deputy Chief’s McDonough, Stickle and Kenny also present.
The fire originated in the basement, Melody Lounge and extended up the stairway to the main hall.Eng. Co 26 ran a big line into the doorway of the main entrance.
Eng. Co. 10 ran a big line and operated in the front window on the Broadway side.
Eng. Co. 22 ran a big line and operated in the entrance on the Broadway side.
Eng. Co. 3 ran a big line and operated at the door on Piedmont St. side. Eng. Co. 35 ran a big line and operated on the Broadway and piedmont St. sides
Eng. Co. 15 ran a big line on the entrance on Piedmont St. side and then to the roof.
Eng. Co. 7 ran a big line on the Broadway side and operated on the 1st and 2nd floors.
Eng. Co. 6 ran a big line to the Shawmut side and operated in the doorway.
Eng. Co. 43 ran a big line to the front entrance on the Piedmont St. side and operated on the 1st floor.
All of the other responding Fire Engine Companies were ordered to assist and remove the victims. These streams were used primarily to cool off the intense heat to allow the firemen to enter the building and remove the people trapped there.
Lad. Co. 13 raised 85 ft. aerial ladder, 30-25 manual ladders on the Shawmut St. side.
Lad. Co 17 raised the 85 ft. aerial ladder on the Broadway side and manual ladders 30-25-B.B. on the Shawmut St. side.
Lad. Co. 3 raised 30-25 ft. ladders on the Piedmont St. side.
Lad. Co. 12 raised manual ladders 30-25-20-16 ft. Roof ladders on the Piedmont St. side.
Lad. Co. 15 assisted other ladder companies in the raising of these ladders.
Firefighters initially entered the revolving doors, finding bodies piled high. All of the Ladder Companies were ordered to assist in the removal of victims from all parts of the building. All of the available men were ordered to assist in this work and were used in the removal of bodies and on stretchers. After the bodies were removed from the building they were taken in various emergency vehicles to hospitals.
Several Engine Companies ran lines to all available windows and doors when they were sure that the bodies were removed. When the fire was under control the apparatus was dismissed with the exception of those needed.
A search was made of the entire building for the search of victims and signs of fire. A division detail of approximately 20 men were detailed and the 1st alarm assignment was dismissed and the all-out signal ordered.
The fire was extinguished by the operation of Engine Streams.
Responding to the fire were twenty-five engine companies, five ladder companies, one water tower, one rescue company and other emergency apparatus. Eighteen streams were operated to quickly cool areas to facilitate prompt rescue work.
In a December 4, 1942 report by Deputy Chief John McDonough
, a detail was maintained constantly from the time of the first response until December 4th. He reported that a diligent search had been conducted to assure no bodies were left on the premises. During that time, debris was overhauled within the building and “every nook and corner searched”. With the assistance of Boston police, an extensive search was made outside, including alleys, parked cars and roofs. Recovered were articles of jewelry, key cases, earrings, billfolds, etc. These items were left with the police with the hope that they might help with the identification of bodies. Deputy Chief McDonough’s opinion was that no further search was warranted.