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Montreal remembers Blue Bird-Wagon Wheel victims

Aug. 7, 2012 – The City of Montreal will finally pay homage to the 37 victims of the Blue Bird-Wagon Wheel fire of 1972.

August 7, 2012
By Olivia D'Orazio

Aug. 7, 2012 – The City of Montreal will finally pay homage to the 37 victims of the Blue Bird-Wagon Wheel fire of 1972.

On Sept. 1, 1972, three men set fire to the staircase connecting the Blue Bird café and the Wagon Wheel country bar after the men were allegedly refused entry to the upstairs bar. Conflicting building code and fire regulations left the upstairs bar without an exit. The fire spread in minutes, claiming 37 lives. Survivors escaped either through the kitchen onto a folding ladder escape, or out a window in the women’s bathroom.

The families of the victims have long sought to erect a memorial at the former location of the Blue Bird-Wagon Wheel, where a parking lot now exists.

“This sad day will be forever engrained in the collective memory of Montrealers,” said Helen Fotopulos, a member of the Montreal executive committee responsible for culture, heritage, design and women’s issues.

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“Exactly 40 years later, our administration hopes to gather together the families and friends of the victims of this terrible fire to pay them homage.”

The city will host a day of events on Aug. 31, starting with the annual morning mass for deceased firefighters at Mary-Queen-of-the-World Cathedral, during which a special tribute will be paid to the victims of the Blue Bird-Wagon Wheel fire.

The mass will be followed by a procession to Phillips Square, where the city will dedicate a historic footprint not far from the original site of the Blue Bird-Wagon Wheel.

The city will also unveil its exhibition, In Memory of the Blue Bird-Wagon Wheel 1972-2012. The retrospective exhibit, which is to be presented jointly with an exhibition featuring 150 years in the history of the Montreal Fire Department, will be displayed from Sept. 1 until Sept. 8 in the hall of honour at city hall.

For more information, visit ville.montreal.qc.ca/sim.


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