Atlanta firefighters R. B. Sprayberry, Rick Roberts, and James Smith responded to the Winecoff Hotel fire on Dec. 7, 1946.
Photo: Sandra Parrish
Photo: Sandra Parrish

Survivors, firefighters mark Winecoff fire anniv

"The memory of it is still very clear... and the thankfulness," says survivor Margaret Foster who handed her 11-month-old baby to firefighter Rick Roberts out a fifth floor window.

Roberts, 94, was among three of the fightfires who were honored at the anniversary reunion.

"We all worked together... we had to, we knew there was big job to do," he tells WSB's Sandra Parrish.

Firefighter R.B. Sprayberry, who went on to become Atlanta Fire Chief, still becomes emotional when he remembers that night.

"Your adrenaline is working, you don't think about yourself or anything... (but) when you get home you start crying," says Sprayberry who is now 89.

Current Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran attended the reunion and commended the firefighters for their efforts.

"They did things greater than their level of training and greater than the number of firefighters available could do," he says. "They did things that were beyond the capability of the equipment they had to save as many people as they were able to save that day," he says.

Even though many lives were lost that night, 161 were saved.

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