On January 6, 1973, three Chicago Fire Department firefighters died in the line of duty, and twenty-eight others were injured, while battling a fire in the Chicago Loop. Firefighters Richard E. Kowalzyk of Engine 104, Timothy Moran of Engine 25, and Alfred Stach, the driver for 2nd Deputy Fire Marshal Robert Lucas, died when the roof of the two-story Forum Cafeteria on W. Madison Street collapsed during a fire.
Dozens of firefighters responded to the extra-alarm blaze, and more than sixty were operating inside the building when the roof began to crack and pull away from the walls. Unbeknownst to the firefighters, flames inside the false ceiling on the second floor of the building had been eating away at the roof supports for several minutes. After seeing the roof buckle, officers began to pull the firefighters out, but not all were able to escape before the roof collapsed. A number of firefighters were trapped and buried by the rubble, but firefighters were able to rescue most of their trapped colleagues before they suffered serious injuries. Some firefighters even escaped the rubble by sliding down a dumbwaiter shaft into the still secure basement of the restaurant.
Firefighter Kowalzyk was survived by his wife and two sons.