Leonard Iannelli

LEONARD IANNELLI was a second-generation Camden firefighter. His father, Frank Iannelli, died while fighting a fire as a member of Engine Company 9 on April 5, 1942. 

A June 1942 graduate of Camden High School, Leonard Iannelli had become a member of the Camden Fire Department by the mid-1950s, and had risen to the rank of Captain by 1964. He was serving as Captain of Ladder Company 2 when the year started.  

On the bitter cold night of January 14th, 1964, as members were standing roll call throughout the firehouses of the City, Box 328 tapped in for Broadway and Chestnut Street at 6:02 P.M. Engine Company 1, Engine Company 8, Ladder Company 2 and Chief Theodore Primas of the 3rd Battalion responded. Arriving units found heavy smoke pushing from the first floor of Walmart Tailors, a three-story building with apartments above. Police had already led nine occupants to safety before the arrival of the fire fighters. Engine 8 stretched the first line while Ladder 2 was ordered to force the door. Moments later, the plate glass windows failed and the store front lit up in a ball of fire. Chief Primas transmitted a second alarm and ordered the deployment of master streams. The fire extended to all floors of the building and broke through the roof as bitter cold winds whipped the flames out into the street. Extreme icing upon ladders, apparatus and streets surfaces made for treacherous operations.

Deputy Chief Austin Marks who responded to the second alarm, special called an additional engine company and further ordered the recall of 35 off duty members , directly to the fire for relief purposes. As conditions deteriorated, a third alarm was transmitted to reinforce relief operations. Shortly after the third alarm, Captain Leonard Iannelli of Ladder Company 2 - the first due truck, collapsed on the sidewalk from a heart attack. Brother firemen rushed to his aid and Battalion Chief Primas personally attended to the unconscious officer. In the ambulance while enroute to the hospital, Chief Primas performed mouth to mouth resuscitation all the way. In spite of these efforts, Captain Iannelli was pronounced dead at the hospital. 

By this time, the fire had destroyed most of the building as the roof collapsed on to the top floor causing some wall sections to fall into Chestnut Street. Fire fighters concentrated their efforts on saving the adjoining Camden Roofing Supply Company. At one point a half-dozen master streams were directed into a narrow alley that separated the roofing supply from the fire building. Units were successful in protecting this exposure and firemen were also credited with saving the huge John's Bargain Store just a few doors down from the fire. Following a six hour battle, the blaze was controlled shortly before midnight although companies would remain at the scene for over 24 hours. On the following morning, the scene resembled an ice palace as firemen used axes and halligan bars to pry frozen hose embedded in thick street ice. 

Like his father, Leonard Iannelli died in the line of duty as a Camden fire fighter.  Tragically, Captain Iannelli's brother, Carmen Iannelli would also give his life while protecting the City of Camden, in 1975. 

Leonard Iannelli

about 1957

Leonard Iannelli

Newspaper Photo

Broadway & Chestnut Street - January 14, 1964
Engine Company 1 - Engine Company 8 - Ladder Company 2

Engine Company 8 with deckpipe from hose wagon, operates master stream into top floor of commercial building during Third Alarm at Walmart Clothing, Broadway & Chestnut Streets, South Camden on 1-14-1964.

Units press an all out attack as Chief Officers confer during Third Alarm at Broadway &  Chestnut Streets in South Camden on 1-14-1964.

Fighting two enemies at the same time amid fire and ice is a frequent scourge of fire fighters. Members are seen directing exterior streams at Walmart fire, Broadway &  Chestnut Streets on  1-14-1964 under punishing conditions.

At Broadway & Chestnut Streets in South Camden. Member seen at center of photo is Ladder Company 2 Captain Leonard Iannelli just moments before his death. At left is Deputy Chief Austin Marks during Third Alarm, 1-14-1964.

Philadelphia Inquirer - January 15, 1964

Fire Captain Dies, 2 Men Hurt Battling 2-Alarmer in Camden
Fire Rages for 2 Hours In 3 Stores

A Camden City fire captain collapsed and died while fighting a stubborn two-alarm blaze that roared out of control for almost five hours Tuesday night.

Capt. Leonard Iannelli was directing members of Fire Truck (Ladder Company) 2 when he apparently suffered a heart attack. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Cooper Hospital.

Two other firemen were sent to hospitals for treatment of smoke inhalation. They were District Chief Frank Deal, 35, of 412 North 37th Street and fireman John Yates, 63, of 2400 South 8th Street Deal was treated at Cooper Hospital and Yates at West Jersey Hospital.

Despite the collapse of a brick wall, which showered stones onto the pavement, there were no other injuries. 


The blaze was discovered at 5:45 P. M. in a shop occupied by the Walmart Tailors Co. in a three-story brick building at Broadway and Chestnut Street. At 10:15 P. M., Fire Chief Edward MacDowell declared the fire under control.

Although only two alarms were turned in, extra pieces of apparatus took their positions at .the scene as flames damaged the second and third-story levels of adjoining stores at 1105 and 1107 Broadway.

The main floor of the Schrack Paint Co., 1107 Broadway, was untouched by the blaze as fire­men concentrated streams of water to head off a possible ex­plosion.

At 9:10 and 9:20 P. M. por­tions of the wall at the third floor level of the tailor shop collapsed inward. Bricks hurtled onto the sidewalk, but firemen had already taken positions across the street with their equipment.


As the fire gained in intensity after the second alarm went in at 6:18, firemen mounted two aerial ladders to pour water into the rear of the burning build­ings.

Originally the fire was declared under control at 7:45, but] 15 minutes later flames leaped from the tailor shop to the other || buildings.

Fire officials said the building housing the tailor shop at 1103 Broadway was a total loss, along with 14 apartments on the second and third floors at 1105 second and third floors at 1107 and 1107 were badly damaged, also.

John's Bargain Store, 1109-1111 Broadway, separated from the other three buildings by a fire wall, received smoke damage and water seepage. 


Tenants from the apartments above the tailor shop fled to the street, wearing only the clothes on their backs. They were escorted to: safety by Police Sgt. John Ferry and Patrolman Alfred Haines, who were first on the scene after the alarm.

The blaze was first noticed by Harold Walter, of 1708 Country Club Lane, Haddonfield, who had just locked up his tailor shop for the day.

Two other firemen suffered smoke inhalation and were taken to hospitals. They were District Chief Frank Deal, 35, of 412 North 37th Street and John Yates, 63, of 2400 South 8th Street. Deal was treated at Cooper Hospital and Yates at West Jersey Hospital. I Finally, at 10:15 P. M., Fire Chief Edward MacDowell declared the fire under control.

Philadelphia Inquirer - January 15, 1964

Camden Courier-Post - January 16, 1964

Blaze Destroys 3 Buildings; Fireman Dies, Two Are Injured

9 Left Without Homes

By Fredrick Smigelski and Charles Q. Finley

A fast moving fire fanned by a bitterly cold wind destroyed three buildings in South Camden last night, left one fireman dead, two others injured, and nine persons homeless.

As dense smoke, chunks of flaming debris and showers of sparks spewed high into the night, the roaring blaze wrecked Walmart Tailors, Inc. at 1101 Broadway and two floors above the store used as an apartment house, the Style Nook Dress Shop at 1103 Broadway, and Jean's Hosiery Shop at 1105 Broadway.

With only seconds to spare, Police Sergeant John Ferry and Patrolman Alfred Hayes entered the 1101 building and led the occupants, many of them elderly, to safety as flames mushroomed from the basement toward the roof.

Eleven pieces of equipment were still at the scene this morning.

Captain Dies

Fire Captain Leonard Iannelli, 41, of 3055 Stevens Street and attached to Truck Company 2, collapsed at the scene. He was dead on arrival at Cooper Hospital of an apparent heart attack.

Fire District Chief Frank Deal, 39, of 412 North 37th Street, was treated at Cooper Hospital for smoke inhalation. John Yates, 63, of 2400 South 8th Street with Engine Company 2, was treated at West Jersey Hospital for smoke inhalation and a back injury.

Among those made homeless by the fire were Claude W. Darnell and Mrs. Carey Morgan, both 80; William Schaffer, 77; and Charles Hill, 67 and his wife who is 62; Mrs. Frances Matthews, 53; Helen Saltzman and James Early.

Iannelli was standing on Broadway next to Lieutenant Colonel William A. Gwynne of the Volunteers of America, a chaplain, who was serving coffee and food. District Chief Theodore Primas gave mouth to mouth resuscitation on the way to the hospital. Coroner Schaffhauser was notified. He said Iannelli died either from a heart attack or smoke inhalation. The possibility of an autopsy was being discussed this morning.

Police Aid Elderly

Iannelli's brother, Carmen, is with Engine Company 9 and was on duty on the time but not at the fire. He went to the hospital when told of the tragedy.

Ferry and Hayes were first on the scene after the alarm was sounded at 6:03 by a nearby merchant. They entered through a back door and ran upstairs to the second floor where they kicked in doors, rounded up the confused occupants and got them out safely. They then went to the third floor and found Early and Darnell.

The fore spread rapidly and soon huge balls of flame were pouring from the windows as burning frames fell to the pavement. Chairs, a shower fixture, a mirror on a wall, could be seen briefly through the windows in the mass of flame inside, then they fell into the inferno.

The roof collapsed, then sections of the third floor wall on the Chestnut Street side began falling into the fire.

Firewall Credited

Smoke filled Schrack's Paint Store at 1107 Broadway and a firewall was credited with helping to save John's Bargain Store at 1109-1111 Broadway.

Firemen carried a hose to the roof of the Camden Roofing Supply Company on Chestnut Street to the rear of the fire. At one point a half dozen streams of water were being poured into the flames as they burned furiously on one side of a small alley which separated the roofing company from the fire.

Harold Walter, owner of Walmart Tailors, Inc. was trying to get his car out of a snow bank nearby when the fire started, He gave firemen keys to open the gate he had just closed across the front of his store.

Fire Chief Edward MacDowell said the blaze had apparently started in the basement of 1101 Broadway but no cause had been determined immediately.

Fireplugs Froze

Engine Companies 8 and 1 and Truck 2 responded to the first alarm with District Chief Theodore Primas. The second alarm was sounded at 6:10, bringing Engine Companies 3 and 7, and Truck Company 1, Rescue Squad 1, District Chief Deal and Deputy Fire Chief Austin Marks.

At 8:02 Engine Company 2  was summoned and at 8:45 35 off duty firemen were called to relieve firemen exhausted by the cold. The spray from hoselines covered streets and equipment with sheets of ice.

When firemen arrived they found fireplugs frozen and had to use heaters to get the water flowing.

Police held back large crowds which gathered despite the cold and wind. The fire burned out of control for six hours and was not declared under control until midnight. The area was closed to traffic during the fire.

Traffic this morning was detoured off Broadway between Mt. Vernon Street and Kaighn Avenue.

Wind Shifted

Primas said there was a west wind when the fire broke out but that it shifted to the north, during the flames into the buildings to the south.

Iannelli is survived by his wife Olga, two sons, Leonard Jr. and Dennis, and a daughter, Mary, at home; his mother, Mrs. Rose Iannelli, of Camden; and two brothers, Carmen and Frank of Camden.

Iannelli's late father, Frank, was a firemen 21 years and died of a heart attack after fighting a fire in April of 1942.

Iannelli joined the fire department in March, 1948 and was made captain four years later. He was a veteran of World War II.

Because of the large amount of stock involved, the extent of the damages were not immediately known. 

LEFT HOMELESS by fire whch destroyed their home, victims of the blaze in the 1100 block of Broadway look on from a nearby house. Seated (left to right) are Mrs. Carey Morgan, 80, and her daughter, Mrs. Charles Hill, 62. Standing is Charles Hill, 67.

ROARING FLAMES obscure a section of 1101 Broadway as flames destroy the building in a fire that also burned out two adjoining structures. The water lines glaze the street with ice, making footing hazardous for firemen. Equipment had to be moved quickly when it was feared the wall might fall outward. The blaze raged nearly five hours.

HUGE ICICLES cover wreckage of three buildings destroyed in fire on Broadway at Chestnut Street.

Camden Courier-Post - January 16, 1964


Camden Courier-Post - June 13, 1975

The Grim Shadow of Death Stalks Firemen’s Family

by Martin DiCarlo

FRANK IANNELLI came to this country in 1904 from the sleepy little mountain village of San Bartolomeo, Italy. He settled first in Boston with friends and went straight to work as a helper at construction sites. He was 13 years old. A few years later he moved to Camden, where he worked at a number of jobs before joining the Army to fight in World War I.

He came back to Camden after the war and in 1921 he had himself a very good year, the kind of year that marks a turning point in a man's life.

First he landed a job as a hoseman with the Camden Fire Department, a job that would keep him working during the Depression. Then he met Rosina Carlone, who, as fate would have it, was also a native of San Bartolomeo. Rose, as she was called, had only recently come to America and was living in Newark. When word reached Frank through the grapevine that a young girl from his village was living only a few hours away, he made arrangements to meet her so that he might learn the latest news about his family and friends back in the old country. Hoping to make a good impression, he made it a point to call on Rose in his fireman's uniform.

The visit went very well. So well, in fact, that six months later Frank Iannelli and Rosina Carlone were married. They moved into a rowhouse at 3rd and Berkeley streets in Camden, and in short order two sons, Leonard and Carmen, were born. Years later, in 1937, a third son, Frankie, arrived.

Like most Italian-American families, the Iannellis were very close. Rose would often take the boys down to the firehouse to see their father. Then, on an April night in 1942, tragedy struck. After fighting a dump fire in the city, Frank Iannelli collapsed in the firehouse at 27th and Federal streets and died of a heart attack. It happened as he was climbing the firehouse stairs. He was 51 years old.

TRAGEDY spares no family. Sooner or later all of us will have to pick up a telephone in the middle of the night. The death of Frank Iannelli hit Rose and the boys hard, but the family closed ranks around Leonard, who followed in his fathez:'s footsteps by joining the fire department in 1948. Five years later Carmen followed suit.

It was not until a bitterly cold night in January 1964, a night on which the temperature dropped to one degree above zero, that the Iannelli family began to think that fate had singled them out for more than their share of heartache.


On that night, Leonard, 41 years old and by then a captain in the department, toppled  smoke inhalation.over in the ice and snow at a two-alarm fire in a men's clothing store at Broadway and Chestnut Street. He died before he reached the hospital, of heart failure brought on by smoke inhalation.

THE IRONY of Leonard's death left the family shattered and bewildered. The pain was keener because neither Leonard nor his father had a history of heart trouble. They had been strong vibrant men, full of life. In neither case was there a warning, a hint of danger. Their deaths were the hardest kind to accept - totally unexpected, as arbitrary, it seemed, as the death of someone struck by lightning.

If there was a consolation for the Iannellis, it was only the thought that certainly now no greater tragedy could befall them. The worst had happened; only better days could lie ahead.

Carmen was now the head of the family and the only Iannelli left in the Camden Fire Department since Frankie, unlike his father and brothers, had not been caught up by the mystique of the fireman's life and had broken with tradition by going to work for RCA.

Carmen was a quiet, sensitive man who preferred to spend his idle hours around the firehouse working crossword puzzles and solving riddles rather than taking part in the practical jokes and locker room humor for which firemen are notorious. He was broad-shouldered and balding, with a homely but honest face, and as he approached 50 the resemblance to his father became almost uncanny.

To his wife, Jean, and the rest of the family, he did not appear to brood about what had happened to his father and brother, nor did he seem to worry about falling victim to a similar fate. But there were times at the firehouse at 27th and Federal, where he had been stationed since shortly after his marriage in 1960, when it was clearly very much on his mind.

One day, climbing the firehouse stairs with Vince Orme, who is now the city fire marshal, Carmen pointed to the second floor landing and said: "That's where it happened. That's where my father died. That's where I'll probably die too."

He was wrong. He was not destined to die on the landing where his father died. He was destined to die about 50 feet away, out on the sidewalk, unravelling five-inch hose after a fire in the storage yard of a wastepaper warehouse on Pine Street.


He was destined to die last Thursday, not only at the same firehouse in which his father died, but at just about the same time of day-two o'clock in the morning-and at· just about the same age - 50. 

THREE MEN, a father and two sons, all firemen, all killed on the job by heart attacks. The irony is almost too awful for the mind to fully grasp and comprehend. In the 100-year history of the Camden Fire Department, it has never happened before. It will probably never happen again.

With Carmen's death, the grief of the surviving members of the Iannelli family can no longer be measured. It can only be sensed. 

It can be heard in the nervous, high-pitched voice of Frankie Iannelli, who is now 38 and who stated very matter-of­factly the other day, sitting in a car out­side the RCA buildings in Camden, that be does not expect to live much past 50 either.

And it can be seen in the eyes of the widows. Terribly sad eyes, like those of children who, having been punished unfair­ly, cringe in expectation of still more punishment. In the eyes of Jean Iannelli and Leonard's widow, Olga, but most of all in the old careworn eyes of Rose Iannelli, who has lost the most, and who alone has seen the haunting tragedies of the Iannelli family unfold from their very beginnings, from the seeds sown long ago in the mountains of San Bartolomeo.