Looking Back at One Meridian Plaza High Rise Fire: 1991

One Meridian Plaza Fire 1991, Provided Photo Source Not Known, All rights reserved

On what began as an uneventful Saturday night twenty-one years ago, a fire on the 22nd floor of the 38-story Meridian Bank Building, also known as One Meridian Plaza, was reported to the Philadelphia Fire Department on February 23, 1991 at approximately 2040 hours and went on to burned for more than 19 hours.

The fire caused three firefighter fatalities (LODD) and injuries to 24 firefighters.

PFD Line of Duty Deaths:

  • Captain David P. Holcombe, age 52
  • Firefighter Phyllis McAllister, age 43
  • Firefighter James A. Chappell, age 29

 The 12-alarms brought 51 engine companies, 15 ladder companies, 11 specialized units, and over 300 firefighters to the scene. It was one of the largest high-rise office building fire in modern American history –completely consuming eight floors of the building –and was controlled only when it reached a floor that was protected by automatic sprinklers.

  • The Fire Department arrived to find a well-developed fire on the 22nd floor, with fire dropping down to the 21st floor through a set of convenience stairs.
  • Heavy smoke had already entered the stairways and the floors immediately above the 22nd.
  • Fire attack was hampered by a complete failure of the building’s electrical system and by inadequate water pressure, caused in part by improperly set pressure reducing valves on standpipe hose outlets.

For a detailed accounting, diagrams and links, click over to Buildingsonfire.com HERE

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