In the ashes of a blaze, a heroic sacrifice remains
Staggering from the warehouse, retching and gasping for air, came Vincent "Moose" McLaughlin, 38, a tall, rugged fire captain revered by the men he now feared were lost. He coughed his lungs clear, vomited in the mud, and charged back inside, feeling along a hose line for his cut-off platoon.
One toxic dump, two decades of sorrow
More than 200 firefighters, police and paramedics answered the call when the fire erupted under the Commodore Barry Bridge on February 2, 1978. No one told them they were wading into one of the worst illegal chemical dumps in the nation. Today, disease is decimating the ranks of those who fought the blaze, according to an Inquirer investigation that traced nearly all who had been there. Serious illnesses - cancer, vascular and neuromuscular disorders, kidney failure - have afflicted at least 45, about one in five. Of those, 28 are dead.