Burnside, KY Mercer Hotel Fire, May 1907

Telephone Girl Cremated In Room

Mercer Hotel at Burnside is Destroyed at An Early Hour

Heroic Effort Made

Rescuers Were Repulsed by Wall of Flame and Life is Lost

(Special to The Herald.)
Somerset, Ky., May 25.-One of the saddest and most disastrous fires occurred at Burnside about 4 o’clock this morning that has been known in this section for some time when the large Mercer Hotel and several smaller buildings adjoining were consumed, and Miss BERTA TOOMBS, of this place, who was a guest at the hotel, lost her life, being cremated in her room.

The origin of the fire is traced to a lamp explosion, and as the telephone exchange also burned at Burnside it is almost impossible to learn the particulars.

Your correspondent managed to get the proprietor of the burned building on the phone, who said that the fire broke out about 4 o’clock this morning and was under great headway when discovered. There were about thirty guests in the building asleep at the time and a general alarm was sounded. Pandemonium reigned supreme among the guests, who made wild efforts to escape the flames.

A heroic effort was made by some of the men to reach the room where Miss Toombs was sleeping, but they were headed off by the raging flames and the young lady was cremated.

The loss reaches up into the thousands and there was only $2,800 insurance carried.

Miss Toombs was a popular young lady of this place and had gone to Burnside a few days ago to act as chief operator at the telephone exchange there during the vacation of the regular operator.

The exchange there is not kept open late at nights and she was asleep in her room when the fire broke out. The charred remains will be brought here for burial.

The Lexington Herald, Lexington, KY 25 May 1907


Burnside Hotel Fire


Somerset, Ky , May 25-The Mercer hotel at Burnsides [sic] was destroyed by fire early today and MISS BERTHA GOONDS a telephone operator , was burned to death The telephone exchange was located in the hotel building and MISS GOONDS was at work at the time the fire broke out The fire spread so rapidly she was unable to reach the street Thirty guests asleep in the hotel were awakened and escaped uninjured.

The Daily Review, Decatur, IL 26 May 1907