Recollection of Bookhardt Fire Scene
(From retired FF Jim Fleming)
On December 2,
1972 around midnight, my fire monitor went
off. The incident was reported to be at 52
West Central Blvd. and the first Engine on
the scene gave a Code 4 status. I advised my
wife that I was going to the fire and she
asked to come along. I grabbed a camera and
a fire coat and we were on the scene in 20
minutes. I had taken two rolls of film when
Chief Bookhardt asked me to help.
I went after a cellar-pipe. No one had one,
so I came back with a distributor nozzle. I
climbed back up the ladder to the roof and
Chief Bookhardt asked me where the hose
clamp was. I returned to Engine 51 and got
their hose clamp. On my way back to Chief
Bookhardt, I noticed dark, black smoke had
covered everything on the ground. I looked
up and saw Chief Bookhardt trying to run to
the northwest corner of the building. He did
not make it. He disappeared into the smoke,
along with his white Chief’s hat.
I took one more step in his direction and
the lights went out. I remember someone
pulling me out from under the rubble (Asst.
Chief Jackson). I remember my wife and Bob
Cross giving me psychological first aide as
they carried me off to the ambulance.
Chief Bookhardt was in a stokes stretcher
and was loaded in the ambulance. When I got
to Florida Hospital I asked Chief Rivenbark
if Chief Bookhardt was dead. He would not
Florida Hospital was my home for the next 67
days. I did rehabilitation until November
1973 when I returned to work as a Fire
I missed Chief Bookhardt’s funeral. I was
told that the motorcade reached from the
First Baptist Church in Pine Castle to the
grave site (Block 13, Section 11, Lot 9) in
Greenwood Cemetery. He got his last ride on
a Fire Engine.
Asst. Chief Bookhardt was an officer and a
gentleman. It was a sad day when he was
taken from this earth. Chief Bookhardt was
married and had four children.
The cause of the fire was a short in the
fluorescent light being used as a night