Fire Chief John T. Moore

John T. Moore entered the Memphis Fire Department in May of 1890 as a Hoseman assigned to Engine 1 located on Adams at N. Second Street. He was known by his peers to be a very aggressive firefighter. In 1892 he was assigned to Aerial Ladder Company Number 1, located at Front and Union. During his time on Truck 1, he would serve as Driver and in 1901 he would be promoted to Lieutenant.

On April 25, 1894, he was trapped in a floor collapse during a working structure fire at W. J. Chase Feed Company located at 185 S. Main. He and several other firefighters were advancing a 2 ½” hose line from the 2nd floor to the 3rd floor. He received a crushed leg during the action. On July 5, 1899, while fighting a 3-Alarm fire at the Gayoso Hotel, Lt. Moore along with 7 other firefighters rescued 10 guests down 50 ft ladders. In 1904 he was promoted to Captain of Engine 9, and in 1910 to Assistant Chief. Three years later, he would sustain facial burns on June 15, 1913, at the R. J. Darnell Lumber Company fire located at Florida and McLemore Ave.

On April 15, 1914, he was in charge of the 2-alarm fire at the Burgess Lumber Company, located on Thomas St. just outside of the City of Memphis. On May 31, 1918, he along with three other chiefs and 10 other firefighters would be injured from burning sulfur fumes at the John Wade Company, located at East Virginia Ave. and the ICRR. This 3-Alarm fire required 12 hose streams to extinguish it. During the Fire Fighters Strike in July 1920, Moore would have no choice but to work when 263 of 268 firefighters went on strike. On February 4, 1923, he would command the fire at the Hotel Chisca garage that would destroy 250 automobiles. On August 12, 1926, Fire Chief Michael Fitzmorris died and 1st Assistant Chief Julius Venturini took command for a short period of time until January 1, 1927, when he retired with 31 years of service. John T. Moore would assume command of the Memphis Fire Department as Fire Chief.

When he died, the stories written about him by his peers spoke of a man with great courage and compassion for the men and the citizens of Memphis. He led from the front. Like all of those old Chiefs, they were not standing in the front yard when a structure was involved, they were up inside the building fighting fire with their men. In later years, Fire Chief Hamilton old me that the Fire Chief needed to be up inside so he will know when to pull the men out; you can’t do that from the street.

Fire Chief Moore would serve more than 40 years with the MFD, from 1890 until 1934.

Leave a Reply