Fire Nerd: Pat Coghlan

Pat Coghlan reflects on the propane explosion that occurred on December 27, 1983 in downtown Buffalo - claiming the lives of five Buffalo Firefighters

Meet retired Lt. Patrick Coghlan from the Buffalo Fire Department, a 34-year veteran of the fire service. Like many firefighters, Patty, as his friends refer to him, is a real character with a bit of a crusty exterior — but when you peel that away — you find a big guy with an even bigger heart and a very special fondness for telling stories and preserving the rich history of the fire service.

A self-proclaimed “nerd” for the fire service (a real “two-hander” as he says), Pat is the Vice President of the Buffalo Fire Historical Society and a hoarder of fire memorabilia. A buff’s buff, Pat has passed down his love for the fire service to his daughter Margaret, the museum’s secretary.

Pat Coghlan is the son of a Buffalo firefighter and a nurse. Like me, he kept a journal of the calls he responded to – except his log starts even before he was a firefighter, chronicling fires and calls that he buffed and took photos at. He buffed 210 runs in 1964 alone.

Appointed to the Buffalo Fire Department in October 1965, his class was the last class appointed for the creation of a new company: Ladder 16. Fresh out of the academy, Pat was first assigned at Ladder 3 on Spring Street where he served as a tiller man. He served as the driver for Chief Harvey Supple from 1969 to 1976. From there he went to Engine 21 and was appointed lieutenant in 1978.

Live from the Buffalo Fire Museum - John Adolf, Jim Herr, Pat Coghlan and Tiger Schmittendorf following the broadcast of the "Firefighter Storytellers" Internet Radio Talk Show. Photo courtesy of: Margaret Coghlan

Newly annointed Lt. Coghlan was assigned to Engine 33 where he worked from 1979 to 1988. He was the officer in charge of Engine 33 on the fateful night of December 27, 1983 when his company responded to the propane explosion that killed five of his fellow firefighters. Mike Lombardo, who was a rookie firefighter on Pat’s crew the night of the explosion, went on to be commissioner of the Buffalo Fire Department. Mike will retire as a Battalion Chief this Friday-December 10, 2010 after 27 years in service to the Buffalo Fire Department.

Coghlan was re-assigned to Buffalo’s busy Rescue 1 in the spring of 1988 where he served the remainder of his career until retiring in October of 1999 after 34 years on the job.

While still on the job, Pat was one of many folks who helped start the Buffalo Fire Historical Society. According to Margaret, when the department celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1980, there was a display of fire memorabilia at a downtown bank and when the display ended, no one wanted their stuff back. There were meetings and lots of ideas exchanged, and the museum started to take shape in 1982. Pat Coghlan was president of the museum early on in its existence.

Pat is a mainstay at the museum and is known for his great stories, his quick wit and wry smile and his uncanny ability to match old box alarm numbers with their street location.

Erie County is fortunate to be home to not one, but three great fire museums. In addition to the Buffalo Fire Historical Society, there is the Firemen’s Memorial Exhibit Center in West Seneca and the Greater Lancaster Museum of Firefighting in the Village of Lancaster.

Merry Christmas to all of you who work so hard to preserve the rich heritage of the fire service. Best wishes for the happiest and safest of holiday seasons.

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Patrick Coghlan is a retired firefighter from the Buffalo (NY) Fire Department. Pat brings his passion for what brought him to the fire service and for the importance of sharing stories to everyone who visits the Buffalo Fire Historical Society Museum, where he serves as Vice President. A “Run-to-the-Curb” kid, Pat was Tiger Schmittendorf’s guest on a special Christmas edition of his “Firefighter Storytellers” live radio talk show on the FirefighterNetcast.com Radio & Podcast Network on December 8, 2010. ©2010 http://www.runtothecurb.com

If you’ve never listened to a FirefighterNetcast, visit the site now, sign up for a new user account for BlogTalkRadio, and be prepared to join in the conversation.

Listen in via the Internet, listen and/or participate by calling in, and join in the live chat that takes place amongst listeners while the show is going on. In case you miss the live show, you can even download the podcast after the fact on FirefighterNetcast and iTunes too. It’s free, it’s fun and it’s easy.

Every firefighter has a story.
Listen in. Call in. Tell your story.

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4 responses to “Fire Nerd: Pat Coghlan

  1. Pingback: A December to Forget? – Tiger Schmittendorf

  2. Sheila Rohrbach July 12, 2011 at 2:09 am

    I BELIEVE I KNOW THIS HERO. I have not kept up very well with the family history as I have my own family to keep track of most of the time……but after seeing Pat’s picture I am sure it has got to be my cousin, I cannot believe how much my brother resembles him. amazing! how family traits follow through,,,,,glad i found this page.

  3. Ray June 19, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    I am interested in information on the career of my grandfather, Chester John Kirchmeyer. He was a lifetime Buffalo resident who spent his career with the BFD. I don’t remember when he retired but he died in 1990. I have a couple old photos of the fire boat and the station from when I was a child. Any info would be appreciated. Thanks.

  4. Debbie Koch Sharpe August 21, 2013 at 6:37 am

    I really hope someone checks this! My Great Uncle was Harvey Supple, Chief of the Buffalo Fire Department and a great man. We were very close until his death. I would love to speak to Mr. Coghlan or exchange emails with him. From this article, I found out that he was my Uncle Harvey’s driver in the Buffalo Fire Department! HEROES, all of you!

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