Norman, OK State Hospital Fire, Apr 1918



(By the Associated Press.)
Norman, Okla., April 13. -- Between thirty and thirty-seven boys, aged from ten to fifteen years, were burned to death in the state hospital for the insane here this morning. All of the boys were inmates of the institution and were helpless as the flames wrapped around them. Being confined in the houses, the young boys were unable to get out of the fire before their bodies had been charred by the onrushing flames.
The fire was of unknown origin. It completely destroyed wards 10, 14 and 15 and the institution dining room. It started in the engine room of the hospital, according to the best information obtainable and spread to the other buildings.
DR. D. W. GRIFFIN superintendent of the institution, said early this morning that the death list may be even greater than thirty-seven. Efforts are being made now to compile a complete list of the dead.
The institution is located several blocks east of the city proper, and the fire department could not reach there in time to save the inmates. The flames were discovered in a few minutes after they broke out, but the panic among the children in Ward 10 prevented effective work by the rescuers.
Practically all of the buildings at the asylum are wooden structures.
LATER -- Advices put the death list at thirty-six, and said forty-eight white men and boys were in ward fourteen where all the deaths occurred. A night watchman discovered the fire in a linen closet in this ward and when he opened the door the flames quickly spread throughout the building. The structure housing wards fifteen and fourteen were frame buildings and burned quickly. About half the missing boys are from ten to fifteen years old while the remainder were from sixteen to thirty-six.
No effort was made this morning to take the charred bodies from the ruins which were still smoldering at a late hour. It was said to be impossible to identify any of the bodies. DR. GRIFFIN expressed the opinion that the fire started from defective wiring as none of the inmates were allowed to carry matches. The property loss is estimated at $40,000. Some of the violent patients fought the rescuers.

The Ada Weekly News Oklahoma 1918-04-18