Devils Lake, ND Hotel Fire, June 1977


Devils Lake, ND. -- Six persons were killed in a fire at the three-story Colonial Hotel in Devils Lake, N. D., authorities said.
Records showed 24 guests were registered at the 75 year old hotel in the lake community 50 miles south of the Canadian border.
The cause was not known.

Corpus Christi Times Texas 1977-06-08


Cause sought in Devils Lake fire

Cause sought in Devils Lake fire

DEVILS LAKE, N. D. -- Michael Relger says and odd rainspout saved his life during a hotel fire which killed six people in Devil's Lake.

Reiger, 44, Devils Lake, suffered bruises after climbing the spout to the roof the burning three story Colonial Hotel early Wednesday.

"I was sleeping but even a dropped needle wakes me up," he said from his hospital bed. "I guess the smoke woke me this time.

The mustachioed handyman, one of 24 guests in the 75-year-old building, said he rushed to the door "but couldn't get out" The hallway was filled with flame and smoke. I was choking."

Heiger said he opened the window of his third story room, but didn't dare drop tot he ground.

"I had to jump to the rainspout outside," he continued. "Then I pulled myself up to the top of the roof and hollered for help."

As the fire spread through the hotel's upper level, it broke through the top and the roof collapsed onto the third flood.

"I saw fire coming through in the middle of the roof," Reiger said, "The roof was hot and it hurt my feet."

"It was just in time," he said. "A few minutes later and I would have gone down through that roof.".....

The bodies of two women and one man were so badly burned immediate identification was not possible.

In addition to Reiger, three other persons were hospitalized in satisfactory condition. They were: Joe McGrath 56, Sheldon; and Arthur Peterson, 77, and Clifford Hayes, no age available, both of Devils Lake.

Firemen and police were credited with saving the lives of a number of guests in the three-story brick building.

"They went in there and knocked on doors to awaken people," said police patrolman Jon [?] McLean. "If there was no answer, they'd kick the door down to warn people."

Most of the survivors made their way out through the building's main entrance or by using an alley fire escape, official said. Several besides Reiger were rescued from the roof.

Joe Bjerke, about 76, Churchs Ferry, died in Mercy Hospital six our after he dropped from his smoke-filled third story window.

"There were several people at the window waiting for firemen to reach them with ladders," said McLean.

Bjerke "just panicked," said a volunteer fireman who asked not to be identified. "We told him to stay put, that we'd get a ladder to him. He didn't say anything. He hung himself over the edge and dropped. He slid off a (first floor) canopy, landed on his feet on the sidewalk and fell backward. He hit his head."

Hospital spokesman Jim Capes said Bjerke died of head injuries.

"He had cataracts. His glasses were probably smoked up and he probably couldn't see" firemen setting up rescue ladders, Capes said.

A police detective said one unidentified guest escaped by leaping through his hotel window and through the closed window of an adjacent apartment building.

The bruised body of Robert E. Lee, 50, Enderlin, was found in an alley and officials speculated he also may have leaped in his death.

The third identified victim was Marie LaCroix, 47, of St. Michael.

Daily Journal, Fergus Falls, MN 9 Jun 1977