Luckie Street Fire
Davis Brothers Restaurant
Atlanta, GA

Q & A with Danny D. Bowman 
Survivor, Luckie Street Fire

(PDF Available)

1. What is it like to be a survivor of the Luckie Street Fire?

Grateful. Just a matter of feet away, four fellow firefighters are plunged into an inescapable inferno. Although I have no recollection of being blown across Luckie Street, I do recall the terrified looks on the faces of the citizens when I turned over. I also remember being embarrassed that I was lying in the water (from the fire hoses); losing my left shoe and helmet; and losing track of my chief officer (Marion McGill.) Of the hundreds of structure fires I’ve responded to since the tragedy, I always remembered that it’s the inevitable “unknowns” (power lines; gas lines; structure collapse, back drafts, etc.) that change lives (or take them) that exist at every fire scene.

2. Did this fire help define you?

It defined the importance of training in my mind. As an Incident Commander, I always handle an emergency scene as a “worse case scenario.” Murphy’s Law will always catch up with you: If it can happen, it will happen.

3. Did this fire change your path, your direction?

Although I had been an Atlanta fireman for three years (in 1971) and fought dozens of structure fires by that time, I felt a need to redouble my efforts in training: Pre-fire planning; “reading smoke” coursework; building construction methods (especially commercial buildings); fire behavior; “self-rescue” techniques, etc.

4. Did the creation phase of the book Tragedy on Luckie Street bring up bad memories?

Post Traumatic Shock Disorder is a very real condition. Before my fire department career I had been a medical technician at the old Georgia Baptist Hospital (today’s Atlanta Medical Center), as well as being a US Air Force veteran. I’ve known life and death situations all of my life. (I’m the son of a career US Army soldier.) I can’t say with all honesty that reliving the events of that evening were debilitating; however, knowing four of your teammates were killed so violently makes me demand today that my troops all train (and be equipped) in the most professional manner possible.
5. What lessons did you learn from the fire?

There are many, not the least of which is the importance of a strong “incident command system”; pre-incident planning of all commercial buildings; self-rescue techniques and equipment; etc.

6. What does this book mean to survivors and those killed?

It has become a mainstay in the fire service that “we will never forget”, more especially after the events of September 11th. I know of no other professional firefighter who is still on “active duty” today (other than myself) who fought the Luckie Street fire. There was simply no one left to tell the story to the young firefighters of today, or to the family members who were never told the whole story.

7. What advice can you offer other firefighters who live through a traumatic event?

Don’t take “it” home! Stress is a part of everyone’s life, but you can’t let it be debilitating. Alcohol consumption doesn’t solve any problem—in fact, it only makes it worse. Firemen do a lot of “decompressing” by talking about incidents around the engine house, and that’s good. Anytime a fire station “goes quite” the company officer knows there’s a problem. Irritability, lax work production; etc., are all signs that there’s a problem. There are times that “the professionals” (the firemen) need to seek professional help. 

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