Retiring Fire Captain Criticized For Removing Photos Of 1944 Fire Victim From Station Walls

| by Dominic Kelly

For his last action as captain before his retirement, a Connecticut firefighter stole photos of an eight-year-old victim of a historic 1944 fire and burned them because he didn’t feel displaying them on the station’s walls were appropriate.

Reports say that William Pond, who just recently retired as captain of the Hartford Fire Department, had already objected to pictures of the young victim being posted on the wall of the station when he first took the job over 24 years ago, but since then, they’ve remained in place. Right before his last day, however, Pond decided to steal them off the wall, bring them to his home, and burn them.

“When originally assigned to engine 14 in the summer of 1990 I objected to the naked deceased pictures of Eleanor Cook displayed in the hallway,” Pond said in an email to Chief Carlos Huertas. “I objected verbally to every house Captain through my career where my efforts proved fruitless. My first order of business as house Captain was to remove them from display.”

Cook, who was eight years old when she died in the historic Hartford circus fire that claimed 167 lives in July 1944, was unable to be identified for decades because investigators couldn’t match her face with her name. The photos of Cook’s dead naked body were hung up as part of a display to commemorate the fire, but Pond said he thought that keeping them up any longer would prohibit her soul from truly resting.

“I removed them today and at my home prayed for peace for Eleanor and burned them in my fireplace,” Pond continued in his email. “I hope you understand and also the Cook family had no knowledge that there [sic] loved one was publicly displayed in this horrific manor [sic].”

Huertas released a statement following Pond’s actions, accusing the former captain of being unprofessional.

“He has demonstrated a lack of professionalism in his decision to take matters in to his own hands and circumvented the process put forth to better handle the situation,” Huertas said.

Huertas says they are currently investigating the incident, although he noted that the photos have “no intrinsic value.”

Sources: Daily Mail, NBC Los Angeles / Photo Source: Daily Mail