A Historic Human Performance Episode of the Equitable Building Fire


2022 marks the 110th anniversary of the Equitable Building Fire in New York City. On January 9, 1912, the Equitable Life Assurance Building located in Manhattan’s Financial District caught fire after a match was carelessly thrown into a trash can. Within minutes, almost the entire building was engulfed in fire. Outside, the wind was howling at nearly 40 miles per hour–with gusts of up to almost 70 miles per hour–making the already below freezing temperatures even colder. At the time, no other private business building housed a similar magnitude of monetary interests under its roof. Considered by some as the world’s first skyscraper, the building at 120 Broadway was completed in 1870. The tragic deaths and enormous property losses sustained at this disaster contributed to lasting changes to FDNY policies and procedures. Those familiar with this fire may know the logistics of this historic event, but in this episode of the Leadership Under Fire Optimizing Human Performance Podcast, we aim to add to the historical narrative of the Equitable Building Fire through a human performance lens.

This conversation is made possible by the extensive research efforts of our guest in this episode, FDNY Lieutenant Matt Connor. Matt was appointed to the New York City Fire Department in 2005. He worked as a Firefighter in Engine Co. 222 and Ladder Co. 124, both in Brooklyn. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 2020 and assigned to Battalion 37 in the 15th Division, again, in the borough of Brooklyn. He’s served in the FDNY Bureau of Training and contributes to the FDNY’s Mental Performance Initiative. Matt received a bachelor’s from the University of Delaware and is pursuing a master’s at the Graduate Center City University of New York where he is studying New York City history through the lens of urban firefighting.