Skip to content
  • Start free trial

New York Heroes: Battalion Chief John J. Bresnan and Assistant Foreman John L. Rooney

1-2 minute read

By The Findmypast team

11 September 2014

On the fateful night of December 29, 1894, the Gas & Electric Light Fixtures Factory of the Cassidy and Son Manufacturing Company went up in flames. The six story building generated a blaze large enough to require the work of 13 engines and 4 hook and ladder companies.

While the fireman were actively working in the building, Battalion Chief John J. Bresnan led a group of men up a flight of stairs, and he, along with Assistant Foreman John L. Rooney, found themselves standing underneath the water tank. Housed on the roof, and holding 3000 gallons of water, the structure was weak from the effect of the fire, and it collapsed, trapping and killing both Bresnan and Rooney. These two men are undeniably New York heroes.


John J. Bresnan held a reputation of being a leader in the New York Fire Department, and it was said that, “no braver, abler or more conscientious man than John J. Bresnan ever drew a paycheck in the service of the City of New York.” He was known as an inventor, with patents for fire equipment such as the Hose Hoist (1886) and a Nozzle for Hose and Discharge Pipes (1884). He was respected and honored by his fellow firefighters throughout his career, which began October 20, 1865. Prior to this service, he spent two years and three months in Co. C, 69th Regiment New York Infantry, enlisting in the Union on 26 May 182.

John L. Rooney was a decorated fireman, receiving the James Gordon Bennett Medal in 1882 after convincing a young lady to jump into his arms as he stood atop a ladder; saving her life from the burning World Building. The Bennett Medal was established in 1869 and for years was the sole decoration awarded for valor in the Fire Department of New York City. Born in 1848, he left behind a family and many friends, who gathered at the Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington Square for his final recognition and honor. He entered the service of the Fire Department on 15 Nov 1872.

To find our more about Chief Bresnan and Assistant Foreman's heroism, read the story inReminiscences of the Old Fire Laddies and Volunteer Fire Departments of New York and Brooklyn over on Mocavo.

We've also added these brave New York firemen to our Hall of Heroes. You can submit your own heroes by visiting the site and letting us know who you'd add.

Submit your heroes today