Chicago, IL Otinger Flats Fire, Dec 1901

Roused From Beds By Fire

Tenants of Chicago Flat Building Have Narrow Escapes Yesterday Morning.

Conflagration Due To Cold

Occupants Kicked and Janitor Overheated Furnace.

Spectacular and Exciting Scrambles For Safety, But No Casualties. Firemen Do Good Work.

Chicago, Dec. 15.-The four-story apartment building known as the Otinger flats, at the corner of Indiana avenue and Thirty-fifth street, was burned at an early hour this morning. The sixty tenants, most of whom were asleep, were aroused by the dense smoke, and many narrow escapes from death were spectacular and exciting. So far as reported everyone left from the burning building by the fire escapes or on ladders hoisted to the upper windows by firemen, but most suffering was caused by exposure to the intense cold in scant attire.

When the first detachment of fire fighters arrived, the majority of the tenants were panic stricken and rushed wildly through the halls and apartments in their efforts to leave the building. The attendant cold spell was responsible for the fire.

Janitor Overheated Furnace.

Complaints from the tenants that the building was insufficiently heated caused the janitor, John West, to overheat the furnace in the basement, where the fire started. The janitor rushed to the upper floors and aided in arousing the occupants of the sixteen apartments. Very soon all chance of escape by the main stairway was cut off by the flames. Many persons were kept by force from leaping from the upper windows, others were overcome by the dense smoke and a scene of indescribable confusion followed. Women in their night clothes and bare feet climbed out on the fire escapes and descended to the street and were given refuge in neighboring residences and stores. Many daring rescues were made by the firemen, especially from the second floor, where the danger from smoke was increased by the close proximity of the flames.

Mrs. Mowery, wife of Dr. A.E. Mowery, was in their apartments on this floor, suffering from a severe attack of illness. Her husband carried her out in his arms through the halls to find escape by the stairs cut off. He returned to his rooms, and throwing open a window, endeavored to attract attention through a heavy pall of smoke. Only a chance breath of wind cleared the air sufficiently for him to be seen. It was due to this that their lives were saved. The loss to the proprietor of the building, J.B. Otinger, was about $150,000; contents, about $20,000.

The Duluth News Tribune, Duluth, MN 16 Dec 1901