Illinois Remembers: Aurora Marks 90th Anniversary of Woolworth Fire


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Aurora, IL – The Aurora Fire Department (AFD) will solemnly mark the 90th anniversary of the Woolworth fire on Thursday, January 11, 2024. This tragic event is remembered as the deadliest fire in Aurora’s history, taking the lives of three valiant firefighters. 

The Woolworth Store, once located at 19-21 South Broadway, became the scene of this devastating incident on January 11, 1934. The fire resulted in the untimely deaths of Captain John Petersohn, 48, Captain Herbert L. Reiss, 37, and Firefighter Charles Hoffman, 35, when part of the building tragically collapsed on them during firefighting efforts.

In honor of these fallen heroes, the AFD will host a wreath-laying ceremony at 8:30 a.m. at the original site of the fire, adjacent to The Venue. This annual event is not just a tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of Captains Petersohn and Reiss, and Firefighter Hoffman, but also a reminder of the risks firefighters face every day. 

The ceremony is open to the public, offering an opportunity for community members to pay their respects and reflect on this significant part of Aurora’s history.


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