When firefighter Richard “Dick” Boyer responded to a fire call at the Reading YMCA on a bitter cold morning in January 1985, he immediately sensed something wasn’t right.
“The fire hose on the sidewalk was burning, and the handle on the Knox box had melted,” recalled Boyer, 76, a retired Reading fire chief.
In the moments that followed, Boyer would discover the tragic reason that caused a fire so intense it consumed a hose intended to destroy it.
A flashover, a type of incendiary explosion that erupted in the kitchen, unleashed a firestorm that swept down a hallway, through the lobby and up the stairways of the first three floors of the six-story structure at Washington and Reed streets.
In its wake, the killer fire claimed the lives of a firefighter and three YMCA residents, and badly burned two other firefighters.