The Photo Request has been fulfilled.

 Carl Harold “Harry” Herman

Carl Harold “Harry” Herman

Burlington, Des Moines County, Iowa, USA
Death 12 Oct 1947 (aged 30)
Burlington, Des Moines County, Iowa, USA
Burial Burlington, Des Moines County, Iowa, USA
Plot Block 323 Lot 196 Grave 1
Memorial ID 100120637 · View Source
Suggest Edits

Carl Harold "Harry" Herman, son of Swedish immigrants, was christened May 21, 1921 at Messiah Lutheran Church in Burlington, Iowa. He was a veteran of World War II. Upon his return he worked for the Burlington Fire Department and was killed in a firefighting accident October 12, 1947. He was the father of two children: Susan Patricia (Herman) Leland, and Robert Paul "Bob" Herman.


The Burlington Hawk-Eye Gazette, front page and page 2, October 13, 1947; Burlington, Des Moines County, Iowa:

Fireman Dies in $300,000 Blaze

H. A. Herman's Body Found in Fruit Co. Ruins; Local Wholesale Firm Plans to Rebuild - Crescent Electric Co. Loss Is Near $50,000


Fire, which ate its way through the interior of the 3-story building of the Burlington Fruit company early Sunday morning (October 12, 1947), claimed the life of a Burlington fireman and caused loss estimated at $300,000.

Firemen battled for 10 hours to have the building at the northwest corner of Front and Valley streets and prevent spread of the fire to nearby and adjoining buildings. It was one of the most disastrous fires in Burlington's history.

Harold C. Herman, 30, one of the first fire fighters into the building and father of 2 children, died when he apparently was overcome by smoke in the basement. Coroner R. O. Giles reported. He was a veteran of World war II. Damage at the Burlington Fruit company was estimated at $250,000 by L.A. Wagner, President. He said the loss was partially covered by insurance and that plans for rebuilding will depend on how soon materials can be secured.

Monday morning fear was expressed that the south wall of the fruit company building would collapse. Police have blocked off Valley street, from Main to Front and it will continue until the wall comes down or supports are put up. Firemen expressed belief that when the supports dry out the wall would fall.

Louis Gloor, of the Crescent Electric firm, estimated the loss there at $50,000. The south wall of the building, next to the Burlington Fruit company, partially collapsed. There was also considerable water damage to the interior and stock. Gloor said that his loss was covered by insurance and that plans for rebuilding were not certain at present. He said that a temporary location would be secured this week.

Damage at the Montgomery Ward company consisted of minor smoke damage.

The Iowa Southern Utilities company managed to save $15,000 worth of transformers and equipment located on the alley west of the fruit company. J. W. commended his men for their prompt and efficient action in bulwarking the equipment and preventing loss that would have cut service from all firms north of the fire along Front street.

A crowd of more than 1000 persons jammed the sidewalks near the burning structure to watch the fire. Many of them stayed on until dawn and the fire began to die down. All day Sunday, other spectators visited the site.

The alarm was turned in at 11:28 p.m. Saturday by Mrs. Mark Dewey who noticed smoke ensuing from the basement and went to the police station to report it. The fire was reported but half an hour before the end of Fire Prevention Week.

Herman's body was found at 1:30 p.m. Sunday after the basement had been pumped dry of nearly 6 feet of water. He apparently made an effort to escape from choking fumes by heading for a stairway. His body was found only 2 feet from the bottom of steps leading to the first floor.

The last act of the tragedy was played as a tight little knot of fellow firemen gathered around as the body of the dead man was carried from the basement.

No one said anything. Faces were set and stern but tears rolled unchecked down the cheeks of the grimy, tired firefighters.

Without a word the stretcher with the body of Herman on it was picked up and carried to a waiting ambulance. As it drove away the eyes of each man followed it until it turned the corner.

"Why couldn't it have been one of us older fellows who doesn't have so many years of life ahead of us or kids to support?" one veteran of the department was heard to remark.

Herman had been a member of a squad that entered the basement in the first few minutes of the fire to string a line of hose. The squad came back out but Herman wasn't missed at first. Several of the firemen had been slightly injured and it was believed he had been among those who had gone to a hospital for treatment.

As time passed and after preliminary checks at local hospitals revealed that he had not been treated, anxiety grew. The men fighting the fire knew in their hearts their buddy was inside. They stayed on the job with grim determination although they believed he was doomed.

At first the fire gave no indication that it would wreck (sic) havoc and destruction.

According to W.G. Middlemann, fire chief, it was believed to have started in the basement in the southwest part of the building. Smoke poured from a driveway and windows but only tiny flickers of flame could be seen inside at first.

Two explosions were heard as the smoke continued to pour out. They were thought to have been caused by ammonia from cooling units in cold storage boxes inside. Firemen fought the smoke with several lines of hose although they were up against terrible handicaps from lines of stored produce inside, and barred windows, Middlemann stated.

The crowd was pushed back by police who tried to keep the curious from coming too close and endangering themselves. Several persons watched the fire from directly under high voltage lines near the alley although the fire threatened to send them down on the crowd.

About 2:15 a.m. Sunday the firemen appeared to have the blaze under control. The smoke decreased and many in the crowd started to go home.

Suddenly smoke poured out of the 3 windows on the south side near the alley. It began to turn black, appeared hot with flame and fire. Then it spread toward the east and poured out of other windows on the third floor.

Seconds later a bursting mass of flame broke through the roof, the fire spread and in a matter of minutes the entire building was ablaze.

Smoke had filled the downtown district, handicapped driving and had been noticed by residents on various hills in town.

The flames spread rapidly and finally got completely out of control. The building was doomed, even in the minds of the spectators who knew little of fires.

Several bystanders pulled off coats, donned rubber ones, and helped firemen pull lines of hose into position and steady searchlights.

Middlemann placed his men and available hose in positions to try to save other buildings from burning. The Iowa ordnance plant department was called and their equipment put into action.

Lines of hose were turned on the roof of the blazing building from the top of the Montgomery Ward and company structure and also from the roof of the Witte varnish storehouse. Another line was turned on the north side of the Burlington Fruit building in an effort to keep the fire wall between it and the Crescent Electric company cool and prevent the fire from spreading.

The strategy worked. The wall between the neighbor firms crumbled and collapsed but the fire did not spread.

Firemen and police stated that had the fire spread to the Witte paint and varnish works the resultant fire might have destroyed the whole block of buildings.

As the blaze continued to devour the fruit company building the third floor collapsed and then the second. Canned goods, fruits and vegetables tumbled down in one enormous pile on the main floor. Apples were baked black by the heat and one fireman said he saw glass fruit jars melt and dissolve before his eyes. Part of the west wall caved in. The alley was barricaded.

Firemen took turns at cups of coffee and short rest periods. Many came from the building coughing because of smoke-filled lungs as they asked for water.

Millard Davis, assistant fire chief, suffered a badly bruised and mashed hand when it was caught between a brick wall and a battering ram he was using. Other firemen had cut hands from falling glass, sore lungs from smoke, and other minor injuries.

Before the building burst into flame officers of the company removed a safe, cash, and other valuables from the office. A railroad car on a sidetrack was moved out of the danger zone by a switch engine. Until the power was turned off firemen shot a heavy stream of water onto the building through power lines carrying 33,000 volts of electricity.

A truck in the driveway, badly damaged by the fire, was finally pulled out by a wrecker. Fire was seen in the walls of a cooler near where the truck had been parked.

Sunday morning, after the fire was out, supports were placed against the wall of the Crescent Electric company. The floor of the second story appeared to be sagging and concern was expressed that more of the wall would collapse.

Herman's death was the first among firemen on duty in 20 years. The last was Thomas Young, who perished in a fire on South Third street. Young, who had been retired, insisted on helping fight the fire, according to veterans on the department.

A veteran of World War 2 who had returned to the fire department after completing his army service, Herman had but recently contracted for the purchase of a home for his family at 307 South Woodlawn avenue.

He was born in Burlington July 17, 1917, the son of Oscar and Amanda Herman. He married Dorothy Brumm on June 7, 1941. He served overseas with the army during the war, was discharged a technical sergeant. His service with the fire department began in 1941.

Surviving are his widow, 2 children, Susan and Robert; his parents; 2 brothers, Stanley, who is also a member of the fire department, and Arthur, both of Burlington.

Services will be held from Prugh's chapel Tuesday at 3:30 p.m., with Reverend Bruce Buchanan in charge. Burial will be in Aspen Grove cemetery.


His gravestone is inscribed with the name Harold C. Herman; but his legal birth name was Carl Harold, per his daughter, Susan (Herman) Leland.

Family Members





  • Created by: DW Brumm
  • Added: 4 Nov 2012
  • Find A Grave Memorial 100120637
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Carl Harold “Harry” Herman (17 Jul 1917–12 Oct 1947), Find A Grave Memorial no. 100120637, citing Aspen Grove Cemetery, Burlington, Des Moines County, Iowa, USA ; Maintained by DW Brumm (contributor 47781608) .