Amarillo, TX Convalescent Home Fire, Dec 1950


"MR. JEFFERY -- PHILLIP JEFFERY - was standing in the hall. He was just standing there, not saying anything"
"I called to the others that the building was on fire and led MR. JEFFERY out."
MRS. WRIGHT suffered burns about the face and hands.
She explained that CHARLEY RYAN, only other survivor of the patients normally in the northwest dormitory, was not in the building when the fire broke out.
"His people were coming for him for Christmas and he was waiting for them outside," MRS. WRIGHT said.
MRS. WRIGHT was unable to determine where the fire started.
"There must have been an explosion. I don't know what could have caused it but the windows were all blown out," she said.
There were no stoves or other fires in the building. The building was heated by a forced draft, hot air system, MRS. WRIGHT said.
The scene at the home was one of panic when firefighters arrived at the home.
Neighbors joined personnel of the home in moving patients – all of them feeble in body and many of them feeble in mind -“ away from the burning building and in removing furniture and personal effects from the threatened buildings.
Many of the patients were hysterical and attendants, themselves near hysteria from the impact of the tragedy, rushed from patient to patient, trying to calm them and keep them at a safe distance.
Panic-stricken relatives of patients, anxious for information about their loved ones, added to the hysteria.
MRS. ZELENE HOWE was the attendant in charge at the time of the tragedy. She had been left in charge by MRS. VIVIAN WALKER, operator of the home. MRS. WALKER was visiting yesterday in El Paso.
MRS. HOWE was in the office building, talking with a prospective patient, when the fire alarm came.
"I heard someone yell, 'Fire!'" she related, "and I called the fire department. I guess they got here about 4:15 or 4:20."
Other attendants were on duty in various parts of the home at the time.
MRS. BILL ELDERS, a nurse, was in the main building. Her husband, the barber at the home, was in the basement at the same building shaving patients and cutting their hair.
BOB HOWARD, cook, was in the kitchen in the main building.
MRS. J. B. KYLE, nurse, was on duty in the center of the building.
HAZEL FULCH, nurse, was off duty and was in her quarters at the rear of the east building.
DORA FLOYD, cook, had gone to Ratliff Grocery in Pleasant Valley, to purchase supplies.
ANNA BOONE, laundress, was off duty and had gone to town.
The Convalescent Home, is owned by Polter County but is leased to MRS. WALKER. Under terms of the lease contract, MRS. WALKER pays a rental for the buildings and pays for utilities.
The home is obligated to care for county patients but is available also to private patients. There were nine county patients at the home and several others received some assistance from the county.
The home was established by the county several years ago when the old Hillcrest Country Club building was converted for use by county patients. It was expanded about two years ago by moving other buildings from Amarillo Army Air Field.
Evacuation of the patients who fled from other buildings required more than two hours.
At St. Anthony's Hospital MRS. N. P. TAYLOR, the visitor who suffered burns, recounted her experience.
"I saw smoke coming out of an air vent," she said, "and tried to carry mother out. I fell and I guess I fainted. When I came to I couldn't see for the smoke and followed the wall out of the building"
She got excited, she said, and drove to the house of a half-sister at 111 Skyline Drive, more than 3 miles from the Convalescent Home. Arriving there, she applied lard to burns on her face, back, hands and arms, and one shoulder, after which she was rushed to the hospital by a Globe News carrier, RAYMOND FORD. Her burns were described as second and third degree and her condition as "serious."
All of the other patients were being treated for shock and hysteria. Many of them, of advanced age, were unable to give their own names, ages, or home addresses.

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