Atlanta, GA Elderly Home Fire, Dec 1972


Atlanta, Ga. (AP) -- Nine persons died and 32 were injured when fire broke out during the early morning hours Thursday at a newly built home for the elderly. Panic, sleepiness and a dark, smoke
filled hallway were among the factors that resulted
in the deaths and injuries.
"Many of the victims died of smoke inhalation," said Atlanta Fire Marshal Jim Seagraves.
Firemen said they stumbled over bodies as they groped through the pitch-black, smoky hall.
Seagraves said one body was found in an elevator
stalled on the seventh floor. Smoke and heat of the flames, which got up to 1,300 to 1,500 degrees, would have been sufficient to jame the elevator's electronic eye, he said.
Residents of the 11-story, $4.5-million Baptist Towers, completed in April, told of being awakened by a buzzing sound about 2:19 a.m.
"I thought first it was my alarm clock," said PAULINE HERSEY, who lives on the eighth floor.
"I pushed the button in and when it still didn't stop, I pulled the cord out of the wall.
"Then I saw smoke coming under the door. I stuffed a dampaned beach towel under the crevice
and ran over and opened my window. I stood in the window and I could see the fire from the other wing of the building.
MRS. HERSEY said the two stairwells and the two elevator shafts were filled with smoke. "Then
the lights went out in the hallway. We couldn't see," she said.
"I heard all those people come panicking and screaming down the stairs," said LOUISE ALEXANDER, who lives with her 88-year-old mother on the ground floor. "I could hear women screaming, 'Come and get me.' They just panicked."
The power failure triggered by the blaze on the seventh floor affected only the upper floors of the building, firemen said.
Among the dead was ALICE ROSS, 63, who authorities said was semi-invalid suffering from Parkinson's disease. Seagraves said the fire apparently started in the living room of MRS. ROSS' apartment, the only one destroyed by fire.
Seagraves said the cause of the fire was not known and probably never would be known for sure. "We are working on it of course," he said,
"but the best we will probably be able to come up with is a probable cause."
The complex stands on six wooded acres on Myrtle Drive in southwest Atlanta, about a mile south of Ft. McPherson.

Hutchinson News Kansas 1972-12-01