100 Years Ago

 

HAMILTON, ONTARIO: AUG. 1, 1911 – Eight lives were lost as fire tore through a hilltop insane asylum just outside the city. Eight hundred patients were asleep when the fire broke out on the top floor of the 200-foot-long, four-story brick building. The women patients were sleeping in the west wing and were removed quickly. The men patients had a more difficult evacuation. Several men were removed outside to safety, only to break away and run back into the blazing structure. The hospital’s fire brigade battled the growing flames as calls for help to the city were made. After a difficult response up the steep hill, Hamilton firemen were faced with an advanced fire that had dropped down to the third floor. Using scaling ladders, they ascended the blazing building only to find their entrance blocked by iron bars on the windows. After clearing the windows, they entered to smoke- and fire-filled rooms to search for the missing patients. Eight unconscious patients and one attendant were rescued from the fire. Conscious patients were also rescued – some with great difficulty – as they frantically battled the firemen. As the sun rose, the fire was brought under control and the grim task of finding those lost to the flames began.

TRAPPE, MD: AUG. 2, 1911 – While many of this Talbot County village’s residents were battling forest fires near the Trappe Canning Co. plant a mile away, a fire of incendiary origin broke out in the village itself. Nearly the entire business district and several homes were destroyed. As the residents returned to save their burning homes, the forest fire strengthened and threatened to overrun the plant and nearby farms.

LONDON, ENGLAND: AUG. 9, 1911 – A fire apparently started in the service elevator on the sixth floor of the luxury hotel The Carlton House, shortly before 7 P.M. The elevator shaft ran from the top-floor kitchen to the ground-floor restaurant and within a few minutes, the flames had extended to the fourth, fifth and sixth floors. Members of the London Fire Brigade mounted an aggressive attack, hoping to keep the fire in that wing of the building. Within a half-hour, 250 firemen, 25 steamers and a dozen ladder trucks were on the scene. Servants and guests cut off by the flames were rescued by ladders or by ropes lowered to adjoining roofs. Several firemen were overcome by the dense smoke and were taken to hospitals. One guest, American stage actor Jameson Lee Finney, was burned to death. He was found in a bathroom hours after the fire.

OMAHA, NE: AUG. 20, 1911 – A fire broke out at noon in the car building and repair shops of the Cudahy Packing Co. plant. Flames spread quickly to nearby stores of lumber and storage rooms and also communicated to the adjacent Union Stock Yards. Quick work by firefighters held the damage at the stockyards to less than $5,000. The car shop, lumberyard and supply sheds were a total loss. The blaze was believed to have started by spontaneous combustion in a pile of oily rags.

CHARLESTON, ME: AUG. 23, 1911 – A fire that started at midnight destroyed the two largest buildings in town. The flame-filled buildings threatened the entire village and communications with the town were cut off when telegraph wires burned through. A shed fire several months earlier burned hundreds of buildings in Bangor, less than 30 miles away.

PARKERSBURG, WV: AUG. 23, 1911 – Three people were killed, one person was critically injured and several others were slightly injured when a gas explosion occurred during a fire in the Chancellor Hotel. Flames broke out in the seventh-floor laundry room and the alarm was sounded. The explosion blew out the east wall, causing it to collapse onto a one-story brick building next door and toppling onto spectators. The flames then threatened to spread to other structures. As the recovery efforts began, one of the deceased removed from the rubble was discovered to be the son of a police captain directing the work.

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