The World was at war in January 1944 when the Ensign-Bickford Company notified the Town of Simsbury that they would no longer be able to provide fire protection services to the Town because of the demands placed upon them due to the War effort. In April of that same year, seventeen draft-exempt men stepped forward to form what would become the Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company. Frank Bradley was one of the original seventeen men who stepped forward. He was also one of the twelve from the group who was selected to attended training in "Firefighting Techniques".
Things began to evolve quickly. To finance the new Company, the Simsbury Fire District was created on June 5th, and the Company incorporated on June 29th having grown to twenty-six members. On July 2nd, the Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company took possession of Ensign-Bickford's 1935 American LaFrance pumper. The Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company was now responsible for providing fire protection to the Town of Simsbury.
The arrival of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus was surely a welcomed and anticipated event when it rolled into Hartford that Summer. Approximately 8,000 people migrated into Hartford's North End on the afternoon of July 6th to take in the matinee performance. Frank Bradley, his wife and two young daughters were in the audience that day.
Shortly into the show, a small fire was spotted burning high on the sidewall of the tent. Initially the audience remained calm as they expected it to be extinguished quickly. Several employees rushed to douse the flames but were driven back as the fire erupted across the big top which was waterproofed with a mixture of gasoline and paraffin wax. In a matter of seconds, a joyful tranquility erupted into mass panic as the spectators stormed towards the exits in all directions.
A memorial erected on the lawn of the Main Station in memory of Frank Bradley and the others who have left us behind.
In the ensuing panic, Frank Bradley and his wife became separated from their two daughters as the fire moved rapidly across the tent consuming it. Frank Bradley and his wife entered the inferno to search for their missing daughters. Both of their daughters would escape the flames that day but tragically, neither of their parents would re-emerge from the big top.
The ironies of the tragedy speak for them self. Fire Company physician Dr. Owen Murphy took-in Frank Bradley's daughters and raised them in their parent's absence. Frank Bradley tragically became the first member of the Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company to leave us behind.