Fire fighting

Wednesday, April 25, 1951

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

Bill Leonard hosts a two part episode, the first relates to the state of New York, the second deals with New York City particularly.
Questions and answers related to fire fighting during an atomic attack with fire chief B. R. Townsend. Questions from listeners include one related to the difference between the volunteer firefighting unity and the auxiliary unit.
Next, someone wonders why it is necessary to turn off the oil burner when a red alert is sounded. Pilot lights, however, are to be left on, because of the danger of gas leaks. Another listener wonders if there is any danger related to the ignition of his car.
A dairy farmer writes to ask if there are any publications regarding firefighting to protect livestock. Townsend does not believe there are. He does state that the same basic rules apply.
He makes other general recommendations to protect one's family against fire - ridding the house of hazards and learning how to use home firefighting apparatus.

In part two, Fire Commissioner George C. Monaghan discusses firefighting during an atomic attack. He gives some particular statistics on the causes of deaths following the atomic bomb drops on Hiroshima and Nagasaki: 50-60% resulted from concussion, 20-30% from fire, and 10-15% from atomic radiation.
Citizens should send in alarms in the event of a fire following an attack, but only after they have tried to cope with the situation themselves. In the event of a fire during a raid, when the house's inhabitants have sought shelter in the basement, one should fight the fire, because the last impact of the atomic radiation is only 30-60 seconds, but the threat of the fire remains.

Monaghan also answers questions related to volunteer firefighters. Women may volunteer as phone operators.

A woman in the Bronx wonders about decreased water supplies following an attack, the Commissioner reassures her that alternate water sources have been identified.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 71587
Municipal archives id: LT1821

Hosted by:

Bill Leonard


George P. Monaghan and B. R. Townsend


More in:

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


About Plan For Survival

"Maybe you, maybe me.  Death and destruction ... Panic in the streets ..." Not a program for pre-bedtime listening, these recordings examine the impossibility of sufficiently preparing for nuclear winter.

With surprisingly calm moderators, the Plan for Survival series (1950-1951) goes beyond the usual "duck and cover" advisement and into the details of an A-bomb attack, fallout shelters, the Soviet threat, first aid, radiation sickness, and food and water supplies following a nuclear attack. Guests include civilians recounting their survival experiences in wartime, like the missile blitzes in England.

The show was transcribed for the Civil Defense Network, which "linked virtually every radio station in New York State and operates entirely by air. It can function even if regular radio lines are destroyed." Bill Leonard hosts with expert panelists, and most programs consist of a balance of speculation and civil information for New York State in general and New York City in particular.  Intended to be a public service announcement for a new nuclear age, the record of these programs now serves to add perspective to 21st century fears —from suffocating due to sinus congestion to bags left in the subway. It's clear -- death comes from above.


Supported by