Minneapolis, MN Hotel-Apartment Blaze Kills Twenty, Jan 1940




Minneapolis, Minn., Jan. 3. -- (UP) -- A thorough search of the fire-swept Marlborough Hotel was completed late today by firemen and Red Cross workers who reported that 18 persons were known dead, 24 were in hospitals, and 19 were missing.

Minneapolis, Minn., Jan. 3. -- (UP) --At least 20 persons perished today in a fire that swept up from the furnace room through the halls and stairways of the Marlborough apartment hotel.
Fire Capt. LARRY BUCK said 20 persons either were burned to death or died of injuries received when they jumped from second and third story windows.
City officials said it was the most disastrous fire in Minneapolis' history.
Scores of the hotel's 200 residents were trapped when the flames blocked every stairway.
Screaming women and children jumped from second and third story windows into the icy streets. Many were trapped in their beds. Others ran into the flaming hallways where firemen found their charred bodies.
Neighbors from blocks around reported that they were awakened shortly after 6 a.m. by the screams of the dying and injured.
District Fire Chief WILLIAM HUTTNER said 11 bodies were taken to the Hennepin county morgue. Within a few minutes a United Press correspondent counted seven more bodies carried from the hotel by firemen.
OTTO KNAACK, 49, janitor at the hotel, said he went to the furnace room to start the fire this morning.
"When I opened the door I was struck by a blast that knocked me 10 feet across the hallway," he said at General Hospital.
"I got up and tried to run, but I fell down. I saw a sheet of flame leap out at me and that's the last I remember. How I got here I don't know."
At least 40 persons were injured. Of these 23 required hospital treatment. Eighteen were taken to General Hospital and the others to Abbott and Swedish hospitals. Included among the injured were two firemen. Ten were injured seriously when they jumped from the second and third stories.
Firemen said that when they arrived at the scene on the south side of the downtown section there were many persons who had jumped lying on the ground. Others were battering out upstairs windows and screaming for help.
Several persons were saved by jumping into life nets, but the fire had gained such headway that the firemen were unable to enter the building to aid other persons that were trapped. It was nearly three hours before enough of the fire was extinguished to allow the start of a search for additional bodies.
Fire Chief HUTTNER said the exact cause of the fire was not known, but he believed a boiler had exploded in the furnace room.
Work of firemen in fighting the flames and rescuing those inside was hampered by the bitter cold. It was 5 degrees below zero, and water from the hose lines froze on the outside of the burning three-story building.
Many of those who fled barefooted and in their nightclothes suffered from exposure.
One unidentified woman leaped head-first from a third-story window. She was killed instantly.
ANother woman, MABEL BROWN refused to jump. Her husband JAMES, pushed her from the window ledge and then jumped. She was killed, and her husband was injured seriously.
A screaming child was trapped in the middle of the building on the third floor, H. O. WILLIAMS, a neighbor told the United Press. The child -- apparently unable to move because of fright -- stood in the center of the flames screaming wildly for 15 minutes before he died, WILLIAMS said.
The second floor of the hotel collapsed, and firemen said it might be hours before they could determine whether any additional dead were buried in the debris.
Fifteen engine companies and 5 truck companies answered the four-alarms and brought 130 firemen to the scene. The hotel contained 78 apartments housing 200 persons.
Firemen arrived within 10 minutes after the fire was discovered but they were hampered by the extreme cold and it was another 15 minutes before their hose lines into action.
Water from the hoses froze on the outside of the building and the street soon became a small frozen lake. Within a few minutes the building became a blazing ice palace.
Attendants at General Hospital said "about 20" of the injured were treated there. Two unidentified persons were taken to Aboott hospital and one man RICHARD DANIELS, 29, was taken to Swedish hospital. DANIELS sprained his back when he jumped from a third story window.
A. B. McWADE, 42, who lives across the street from the Marlborough said he was awakened by "the worst screams I ever heard." He said he looked out the window and saw the entire hotel covering half a block in flames.
"I saw a child trapped in the middle of the building on the third floor, McWADE said.
"There were flames all about him, and he just stood there screaming."
"That lasted for 15 minutes and then he was quiet. He must have been burned to death. I was through the war, but I never saw or heard anything like this."
H. O. WILLIAMS, who also lives across the street, said he saw "at least 40" persons carried from the building.
A fire department official said: "It was reported to us that there was an explosion. When we got there the entire roof was ablaze and every stairway was blocked by flames."
At General Hospital, one of the injured, C. F. CALLAHAN, 58, bartender, said he was getting up at 6 a.m. when he smelled smoke. He ran into the hall, saw smoke pouring up the stairway, and ran back into his room on the third floor to awaken his wife.
"I'd no sooner shut the door when I heard an explosion," he said. "When my wife and I reached the hallway flames everywhere."
"We got down on our stomachs and began crawling toward the rear exit to the fire escape. I raised my head once to look where we were crawling when a sheet of flame burned my face and singed my hair."
"We finally got to the exit and down the fire escape," he said. "All we could hear was a loud roar."
LEO MARTIN, 43, salesman, who lived on the third floor, said he had his head out the window when he saw a woman in a neighboring apartment dash through the window and land head-first on the pavement below.
The Marlborough is a small apartment hotel on the south side of the city a short distance from the downtown section.
JAMES SWANSON, a cab driver said he saw the flames when he took a fare to another hotel in the nieghborhood.
"Windows were being broken on the second and third stories and furniture was being thrown out," he said.
"While I looked a woman jumped out of a third-story window and landed on the pavement."
Attendants at General Hospital said "about 20" of the injured were being treated there.
JOHN ANDERSON, attendant at the Hennepin County Morgue, said three bodies had been brought to the morgue. All were unidentified, but he said one was a 30-year-old woman who jumped from a third-story window.

The Oelwein Daily Register Missouri 1940-01-03