HUDSON FALLS — It was 25 years ago that thousands of firefighters joined in Juckett Park to honor their fallen comrade, Paul MacMurray, who lost his life fighting the massive Parkview Hotel fire on Main Street.
On Saturday, area firefighters will again come together across the street from Juckett Park to honor the Hudson Falls hero and all firefighters who risk their lives each time they answer the call for help.
“This is a day for the recognition of firefighters all over,” said Bill Nikas, who was at one time a part-owner of the hotel. “The recognition for Paul has been a long time coming.”
It was 7:58 p.m. on Aug. 27, 1994, when MacMurray left his daughter’s birthday party in response to a call about a structure fire at the three-story, 45-room hotel.
“We had no idea, but when we got there, the entire kitchen was involved,” said Hudson Falls Assistant Fire Chief John Santa Croce, who was chief at the time of the hotel blaze. “Because of the age of the building, once it started it accelerated.”
MacMurray, who was part of the initial search team, went to the second floor of the 1899 hotel, evacuating several occupants who didn’t know the hotel was on fire.
“Paul and his partner were searching above the fire — it is the most dangerous place to be,” said Kip Grant, former assistant fire chief in Hudson Falls. “They got people out and went back in to get more people to safety when the conditions suddenly changed. All of a sudden, fire was raging on the second floor. It degraded rapidly and they knew they had to get out.”
But MacMurray and partner, Thomas Center, were separated by what is called a flashover.
“Conditions were so bad,” said Grant. “They couldn’t get to him.”
Twenty-eight area fire companies responded to the roaring blaze, which, by many accounts, could be felt 100 yards away.
“For a community the size of Hudson Falls, it was a fire for the ages,” said Grant, who knew MacMurray as a firefighter.
Since MacMurray’s death, Santa Croce has sent a letter to the members of the Hudson Falls Fire Department each year in his memory, and the firefighters have placed flowers on his grave each Memorial Day.
But Saturday’s event is the first community-wide memorial at 138 Main St., the scene of the blaze, in 25 years, and organizers expect many of the fire departments who fought the 1994 fire to attend.
The memorial event, starting at 1 p.m., features a number of speakers including Hudson Falls Mayor John Burton, Grant and members of MacMurray’s family.
There will be two unveilings on Saturday: One for a memorial street sign in MacMurray’s honor, and the other a memorial plaque that will be placed in concrete at the scene of the blaze, across from Juckett Park.
According to Santa Croce, the only other Hudson Falls firefighter to lose a life was Ernest Starett, who died on Jan. 16, 1910 from injuries suffered fighting a structure fire.
"He was trapped under a wall collapse," Santa Croce said."There have only been two firefighters who died in the line of duty in Hudson Falls. It is a rarity in this area.”
On Saturday, the MacBoston Fallen Firefighter Memorial, an old-style ladder truck with the names of all firefighters in the state killed in the line of duty, will be at the park for the ceremony.
“This is a dedication of fire service, for the firefighters who risk their lives,” Santa Croce said.
According to Nikas, the road from Maple Street to north of Juckett Park will be closed from about noon until the end of the event.