On December 11, 1934 at 5:30 am, the fire alarm outside the Kerns Hotel began to ring. The four story 211 room brick hotel had 215 registered guests, and was on fire. Before the fire was extinguished, thirty-two people were known dead and forty-four, including fourteen firemen, had been injured. Two of the injured people died later. Among the dead were seven Michigan legislators and five unidentified people. Many guest escaped by descending four fire ladders, and eight people jumped into life nets. However, the fire spread through the hotel's wooden interior so quickly that many people were trapped in their rooms. Seventy-two members of the ninety-seven-man fire department fought the fire using eight of the department's fire apparatus. To date the Kerns Hotel fire remains the worst fire disaster in the history of Lansing.
The firemen who fought the Kerns Hotel fire were aided by the Lansing and Michigan State Police, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Volunteers of America and citizen volunteers, who brought the firemen hot drinks and dry gloves. Some of those volunteers later decided to form a club to support the work of the Lansing Fire Department. The club took its name from the fire Alarm Box 23, at Ottawa and Grand, from which the first alarm for the Kerns Hotel fire was sounded. The Box 23 Club was formally organized on December 11, 1937, the third anniversary of the fire. Its membership, which is limited to twenty-three people, pledges to support the Lansing Fire Department and to provide aid at fires when requested to do so by the Fire Department officer in charge of the fire.
The Box 23 Club meetings are held once a month between September and May. Dinner meetings are held in October and February at one of the nine fire station on a rotating basis.
The goals of the Box 23 Club are to promote the interests of the Lansing Fire Department and be of service to the firefighters at the scene of emergencies. Members are called to the scene of multiple alarm fires and provide hot or cold beverages, depending upon the weather , dry gloves and doughnuts whenever possible to the firefighters.
The club has always tried to operate in a quiet manner not seeking any publicity for the club and its members. Even so on May 21, 1977 Mayor Gerald W. Graves deemed it fitting and proper to set aside and proclaim that day as "Box 23 Association Day" in Lansing and asked that all citizens of this community to recognize the members of this extremely fine organization for the special service they render to the Lansing Fire Department.
On behalf of the Lansing Fire Department , I would like to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to the Box 23 Club for all that they do.