Firefighter, dog honored on anniversary of deadly Wilmington fire

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Flags at the graveside for Captain William Ellerbrock and his trusty dog, Boss, in April 2019. (Photo: WFD)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Flags were laid at the graveside this week for a volunteer firefighter and his trusty dog to remember their heroism made more than a 100 years ago.

Wilmington Fire Department shared the duo’s story Wednesday, marking the anniversary of a deadly fire that happened 139 years ago in downtown Wilmington.

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In the late evening of April 10, 1880, a fire started at George Peck’s store at the corner of Front & Dock streets. Captain William Ellerbrock, a tugboat captain and volunteer fireman with the Howard Relief Fire Company, joined others in an effort to contain the fire.

Flags at the graveside for Captain William Ellerbrock and his trusty dog, Boss, in April 2019. (Photo: WFD)

Before fighting the fire, Ellerbrock asked a bystander to hold his dog, Boss, who went everywhere with the captain.

WFD says as the fire intensified and the building collapsed. It was assumed everyone had left the building.



The next morning, Ellerbrock failed to show for breakfast, and his uncle began to search for him.

Captain Ellerbrock was found badly burned, trapped by a heavy timber. Boss had reached him and tried to drag Ellerbrock to safety. The dog had pulled so hard that a portion of the coat was torn away and was found gripped in his jaws.

Boss had died at the side of his master. His body was placed in a box and buried in the casket with Captain Ellerbrock.