Bay City, MI Deadly Hotel Fire, Dec 1977
SIX KILLED, 11 MISSING AS FLASH FIRE DESTROYS BAY CITY, MICHIGAN, HOTEL.
By Chris Parks.
Bay City, Mich. (UPI) -- A flash fire roared through an aging downtown landmark hotel Saturday, sending flames from every window and forcing scores of screaming residents to leap for their lives in zero-degree temperatures. At least six persons were killed and 11 others were missing.
Authorities said they would wait until Sunday morning before searching for more possible victims beneath the partially collapsed ruins of the four-story Wenonah Hotel building, a combination apartment building and hotel that housed numerous welfare recipients.
"It's just too unsafe to do any more tonight," police officer CHARLES DAVIS said.
Sixty others were injured in the blaze, which spread so quickly that numerous barefoot residents clad only in night clothes could not reach the two fire escapes. They clung to window ledges screaming for help before dropping to the ground that was covered with snow and ice.
"People were jumping from everywhere," a police dispatcher said. "A lot of injuries were caused by the falls."
Gov. William G. Milliken ordered special state police units to the city to help identify the dead, and state social workers also were dispatched to aid homeless victims, many living on welfare of social security infomes.
Detective PETER WHITE said police had trouble locating those listed as missing, because "when the fire started, everybody scattered."
Three of the residents who died at area hospitals were identified as RICHARD ENGEL, 32, DUDLEY HALL, 56, and ANTHONY K. BOSCO, age unknown. Three other unidentified bodies were pulled from the wreckage before the search halted.
Hospitals reported treating about 60 victims. Almost half were admitted.
Firemen and police waited more than four hours before entering the shaky wreckage to look for more victims. By that time portions of the roof had collapsed.
Police estimated more than 400 persons were occupying the 306 rooms of the 70-year-old red brick structure when flames erupted about 8 a.m. EDT. The cause was not immediately determined.
The city's three major hospitals instituted disaster plans as every available ambulance around this central Michigan city was called to the scene. Private citizens picked up dazed and frostbitten tenants and took them to hospitals.
"I saw flames coming out of just about every window soon after the fire started," said BOB DiCOCCO, manager of a department store across the street from the hotel.
"It's havoc here. Sightseers are everywhere and the whole downtown area is a mess. Water's all over the place, and the whole area is like one big icy pond."
Hospital officials complained that sightseers blocked bridges over the Saginaw River that linked the fire scene to the hospitals.
Lowell Sun Massachusetts 1977-12-11