Looking back at the 1976 firestorm that blew helmets off St. Louis firefighters standing a block away

  • Source: KSDK-TV NBC 5 St. Louis
  • Published: 03/26/2021 12:00 AM

VIDEO: Storms in April are nothing new in St. Louis. In fact, we’ve come to expect them. But there was a storm no one saw coming back in the spring of 1976. And, as you’ll see in this edition of Vintage KSDK, this one blew helmets off firefighters and could have wiped out the entire city. “This is a firestorm,” explained Charles Kamprad, the St. Louis fire chief at the time. “It’s magnitude is 500 times greater than a five-alarm fire would be.” Another fire in the city in May 1849 would come to be called the "great St. Louis fire". A firefighter died in that disaster, and a significant part of the city was destroyed. But this fire in 1976 posed a threat that had the potential to be just as devastating. It happened on April 2, 1976. Flames broke out in the vacant Heyday Shoe Building at 21st and Locust. The building had been empty for years after being gutted by a previous fire, which set the stage for this one to spread quickly.


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