Hoquiam, WA Rest Home Fire, Jan 1951
REST HOME FIRE DEATH TOLL AT 21.
Hoquiam (UP) -- Twenty-one welfare patients, all over 60 and most of them helpless, were killed in a fire which flashed through a wooden convalescent home yesterday.
Twenty-nine patients were in the McClary convalescent home when the flames broke out, Coroner Edward B. Riley said.
Thirteen bodies were removed from the charred ruins of the rambling, two-story structure. Seven died from burns after firemen and attendants rescued them. Another died of a heart attack.
Some perished trying to reach windows or an inside stairway, the only escape from the second floor. Ten were cremated in their beds.
The blaze apparently leaped from a basement clothes drying room to the second floor while the aged residents of the home, many too ill and feeble to move, lay in their beds awaiting lunch.
Fourteen were trapped in the flames and suffocating smoke that licked and billowed up stairways and air vents to encompass the rear of the building and its second floor, and leave it a charred shell.
Police Lieut. C. A. Potter and Fire Chief Glenn W. Haney agreed that the fire probably started in a small sheet-metal stove in the drying room, and not in the furnace in an adjoining basement room. At first it was believed the furnace had exploded, as a blast was heard when the blaze struck. Later investigation showed the furnace to be virtually intact.
Operator of the McClary convalescent home was MRS. HARRIET McCLARY. She said: "All of a sudden it sounded like an explosion at the rear of the building and the whole back end was enveloped in black smoke. Probably the furnace blew up. I don't know."
Her husband, WILLIAM H. McCLARY, said the building was worth $50,000 before the fire. He said he was unable to estimate the damage.
As the holocaust roared from basement to second floor with sickening speed, the aged screamed for help. One pensioner, HENRY HAYWOOD, 70, said he was laying down upstairs when he looked under the door, which opened on a stairway. Suddenly he saw flames and smoke.
"I ran down the hall and warned others," he said.
"Then I put on my shirt, pants and socks, but by that time the smoke and heat was so bad I went out the back window on a narrow ledge."
He held on the the gutter for a short while before firemen "shoved a ladder under me and helped me down."
Then, of his aged unfortunate friends he left behind, he said: "I'm sure they couldn't get out as most of them couldn't walk."
Firemen had the flames stopped in about an hour. By that time the carred remnants of bedding, clothing and other personal effects were strewn and littered from one end of the burned out building to the other.
Tri City Herald Pasco Washington 1951-01-31