Pittsburgh, PA Little Sisters of the Poor Home For Aged Disastrous Fire, July 1931
30 DEAD, 20 MISSING MANY HURT IN PITTSBURGH FIRE.
FEARED SHOCK WILL COST LIVES OF SURVIVORS IN HOME FOR THE AGED.
Six of Missing Are Volunteer Rescue Workers -- 80 Year Old Survivor Tells of Dropping to Knees and "Praying to God" -- 250 Inmates in Building When Fire States -- Heroism of Mother Superior Praised -- Most of the Inmates All But Helpless Before the Fire -- Origin of Flames Undetermined.
Pittsburgh, July 24 -- (AP) -- Thirty persons were known to be dead, twenty were missing and more than 100 were in hospitals after a fire had destroyed the home for the aged of the Little Sisters of the Poor here tonight.
Most of the dead were aged and infirm inmates of the home which was located at the corner of South Aiken and Penn avenues, in the East End district.
The fire which apparently started in the lower part of the building near the institution's morgue, was first sighted by a nearby resident who turned in the alarm. Six alarms were sounded in rapid succession as the seriousness of the situation was discerned, and firemen and police were called from all parts of the city.
250 Inmates In Home At Time.
In the home at the time the fire started were 250 inmates, about evenly divided between men and women.
The flames quickly spread through the home and many aged persons could be seen standing at windows screaming for help. Nuns and Brothers of a religious order aided the firemen in the work of rescue. After a four hour fight the fire was brought under control and rescue parties entered the smouldering ruins in a search for further bodies.
The Mother Superior of the Institution was among those most active in assisting the elderly men and women from the building. After the fire had spread so that it was dangerous for anyone to enter, she had to be forcibly detained from further attempts at rescue.
Six of the missing were volunteer rescue workers who entered the building in search of bodies.
30,000 Persons View Flames.
Police battled an estimated crowd of 30,000 persons who gathered as the flames lighted up the skies.
Most of the inmates of the home were all but helpless before the fire. All were old and most of them suffering from infirmities.
Seven women were trapped in a third floor room among them a MRS. MARY KLINE, 80, who is blind.
"I just got down on my knees and prayed to God," she said, "and then I was rescued."
Despite the care given those rescued from the home, DR. W. HOARD EVANS said he believed that the shock of the tragedy would be fatal to many because of their extreme age. All those in the home were more than 60 years old.
Dead Not Identified Hours After Fire.
Hours after the fire the dead could not be identified except in a few cases.
In the Penn avenue and South Aiken avenue courts of the burning building, scores of volunteers massed on a stout fire escape and passed inmates from hand to hand until they were brought to the ground.