45 Fires In 4 Hours

July 2, 1978

Dozens of fires caused havoc in Downtown and Midtown during a fire union strike and brought hundreds of National Guardsmen to the city to protect property and maintain order. In addition to devoting much of its staff to covering the story — there were 45 fires in four hours — the newspaper strongly condemned the strike in a front-page editorial.

The rash of vandalism and harassment that accompanied the strike is contrary to the public image of Memphis firemen. It comes as an ugly shock.

Looking back: Jerome Wright, a 40-year CA veteran, was among the reporters assigned to the story. “The thing I remember most is being called back to work that night and, while driving north on Interstate 240, looking toward Downtown and seeing all the fires burning. It looked like something out of a war movie.”

National Guardsmen stood guard after firemen abandoned this ambulance on Hollywood and took the keys with them, causing it to have to be towed in the National Guard Armory. An eight-day Memphis police and fire strike ended when the city and unions reached agreement. (Dave Darnell/The Commercial Appeal)

National Guardsmen stood guard after firemen abandoned this ambulance on Hollywood and took the keys with them, causing it to have to be towed in the National Guard Armory. An eight-day Memphis police and fire strike ended when the city and unions reached agreement. (Dave Darnell/The Commercial Appeal)