Kathleen Flanagan Photography
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Firemen and the Halifax Explosion in 1917
There was approximately 20 minutes between the 8:45 am collision of the Mont-Blanc and the Imo and the huge explosion at 9:04 am on December 6, 1917.  This was enough time for fire stations across the city to respond as the burning Mont-Blanc began its disastrous drift to Pier 6.  The Halifax Fire Department consisted, at that time, of eight stations, 122 firemen (including 36 full-time firemen), 30 horses, and 13 vehicles, including the Patricia, the only motorized fire engine in Canada.  The Patricia was crewed by the West Street firemen. 

The tugboat Stella Maris responded from the harbour, while the Fire Department responded at the docks.  The West Street Station was the first to arrive at Pier 6.  Six crew members were onboard the Patricia: William Broderick, Michael Maltus, Walter Hennessey, Frank Killeen, Frank Leahy, and Billy Wells.  (Billy Wells was the only one to survive.)  Fire Chief Edward Condon and Deputy Chief William Brunt were next to arrive, coming from the Brunswick Street Station in the department’s roadster. Chief Condon pulled the alarm again to request additional help.  John Spruin, retired fireman, heard it, and jumped on the running board of a horse-drawn pumper from the Brunswick Street Station.  John Duggan was onboard a horse-drawn pumper from the Isleville Street Station.  Eight of the firemen were killed instantly; a ninth died several weeks later. 

The Halifax Explosion placed unimaginable demands on its fire department.  The remaining 30 firemen and 120 volunteers were left to respond to countless fires throughout the city, as houses collapsed around damaged wood stoves.  As news of the explosion spread other jurisdictions, firemen arrived by train bringing equipment with them. Many of the hoses that they brought could not be connected into Halifax’s system.  The move to standardize equipment began soon after.  
Four firemen from West Street Station were killed immediately on December 6, 1917: William Broderick, age 32, son, and fire captain; Michael Maltus, age 40, husband, father of eight children, and fireman; Walter Hennessey, age 25, husband and fireman; and Frank Killeen, age 21, son, brother, and fireman. Another from the West Street Station died of his injuries on December 31: Frank Leahy, age 36, husband, father of one child, son, brother, and fireman. Two from the Brunswick Street Station died immediately: Edward Condon, age 60, husband, father of four, and fire-chief, and William Brunt, age 42, husband, son, uncle, and deputy chief.  John Spruin, age 65, husband, father of two children, grandfather of two, retired fireman, and volunteer with the Brunswick Street Station, was killed by shrapnel from the Mont-Blanc. John Duggan, age 34, husband and father of six children, stevedore, and fireman, was also killed by shrapnel from the Mont-Blanc.