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WORCESTER ― Paul A. Brotherton, Timothy P. Jackson, Jeremiah M. Lucey II, James F. “Jay” Lyons III, Joseph T. McGuirk and Thomas E. Spencer: six brave men whose names the city will never forget.
Dec. 3, 1999, was a sad day that continues to be recognized each year in Worcester, no matter how hard and painful for the victims' families and friends, the brotherhood and sisterhood of firefighters, and the people of Worcester to remember.
A short remembrance at 6 p.m. Sunday will mark the 24th anniversary of the evening firefighters Brotherton, 41, Lucey, 38, and McGuirk, 38, as well as Lts. Jackson, 51, Lyons, 34, and Spencer, 42, all without hesitation, went into the burning Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. building, not to return alive.
The remembrance, which is open to all, will take place at the Franklin Street Fire Station Memorial. This will include a moment of silence, the laying of a wreath and the sounds of the Worcester Fire Department’s pipes and drums.
One Worcester native who will never forget Dec. 3, 1999, is actor and comedian Denis Leary. Nor will he stop honoring these men who have been immortalized with the bittersweet distinction of being members of the Worcester 6.
Leary — whose first cousin Lucey and his childhood friend and classmate at St. Peter's High School Spencer were both victims of the fire — established the Leary Firefighters Foundation in the spring of 2000.
On Saturday, Leary posted on the foundation’s X site a video honoring the Worcester 6 and showcasing some of the sons who have followed their father’s footsteps and become firefighters. It's visually striking the way some of the sons are the spitting images of their fallen firefighter fathers.
On December 3, 1999, 6 Worcester Firefighters lost their lives in the Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. fire. 20 years later, the legacy of these heroic men is carried on by 7 of their sons. Please join us in honoring the W6, and sharing our gratitude for their sons below. pic.twitter.com/QPi1sVOaHx
— Leary Firefighters (@LearyFF) November 25, 2023
“If I was pitching you a Hollywood movie where I said six brave men died while protecting the community they served and within, you know, 20 years, seven sons of those firefighters would now be working as experienced firefighters in the same department, nobody would buy that, and that’s exactly what happened here,” Leary is seen saying on the posted video.
From Leary, the video cuts to two grown-up brothers and sons of Brotherton.
“I was around 6 years old when I knew I wanted to be a firefighter,” Brian Brotherton said.
“Personally, I'd like to be a great firefighter someday, like he was,” Steven Brotherton added.
In addition to Brian and Steven Brotherton, their brothers David, Michael and Timothy, who do not speak in the video, are Worcester firefighters. Five of Paul Brotherton's six sons became Worcester firefighters.
Danny Spencer, son of Spencer, and Jerry Lucey III, son of Lucey, are also featured in the video tribute.
“I’m third-generation. My grandfather was a firefighter. My father was on my whole life, up until the fire,” Danny Spencer said. “Let’s be honest. It’s fun too.”
“I mean, seeing my dad come home from work, you know, and you smell the smoke on him when you give him a hug, that’s kind of what I always wanted,” Jerry Lucey III said. “I loved that smell growing up.”
Archives: 'The worst day ever'
Candle ignites blaze
The fire started when a homeless couple knocked over a lit candle. Firefighters initially entered the vacant warehouse thinking the couple were still inside, and they became trapped in the sprawling brick edifice. It turned out the couple had left the building.
The fast-moving, massive blaze claimed the lives of the six Worcester firefighters that night.
It would take eight days before physically and emotionally drained firefighters — literally working around the clock and searching piece by piece by hand through the smoldering rubble — found the remains of the last missing man.
Even while President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and 30,000 firefighters from across the nation attended a memorial service at the Worcester Centrum, now the DCU Center, for the six fallen men, about 20 searchers stayed at the ruins and continued their efforts.
When the ordeal that forever changed the city was over, one fire official called the warehouse that took the lives of six of his fellow firefighters ``the building from hell.''
This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Worcester to mark 1999 Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. fire anniversary