Seattle, WA Deadly Hotel Fire, Mar 1970
SEATTLE HOTEL FIRE KILLS 19.
Seattle (AP) -- An early morning fire at the Ozark Hotel here killed at least 19 persons, and Mayor WES UHLMAN said after meeting with fire and police officials that the blaze appeared to have been "intentionally set."
It was the city's second most disastrous fire in regard to the number of persons killed. Firemen searching through smoking rubble said others also may have perished in the blaze.
UHLMAN said the indication of arson was based on "fires that began almost simultaneously in the hotel's two main stairways."
He also said teams of fire officials had been making night of hotels after "receiving information from federal sources ... that there was a developing pattern of fires in downtown hotels."
The mayor ordered an immediate investigation to determine what kinds of material were used "to set the fire."
There were 617 arson fires in Seattle last year, according to fire department officials.
The King County medical examiner's office said the toll might go higher. An estimated 35 to 40 persons were in the hotel, one guest said.
Seattle Police Sgt. JACK LAWSON, who witnessed the blaze, said some hotel residents leaped from windows to escape flames.
EUGENE FINGARSON, 42, a hotel guest said he sat on a fourth-floor window ledge for about 15 minutes until firemen put a ladder up to him.
"I heard a siren," said FINGARSON, "and then I smelled smoke. I opened the door, but the fire came into the room, and I had to close it again."
"The hall was full of fire and smoke. I couldn't get out that way."
He said many of the residents were elderly persons.
"I know one man jumped from the second floor. He was pretty banged up, but he was OK." He estimated the hotel housed 35-40 persons.
FINGARSON said he was awakened about 2:30 a.m. Firemen reported the fire under control at 3:24 a.m.
One tenant, GRACE CHAMBERS, 69, was injured critically when she jumped through a window pane and plunged from the third floor.
Two fire fighters also were hurt.
Fire Chief GORDON VICKERY said the first company on the scene found two fires, one at the base of the stairway at the hotel's north entrance the other on a second floor landing of a stairway on the south side.
The fires exploded up both stairways, VICKERY said. Within six minutes of the arrival of the first firemen, flames had broken through the roof of the hotel, he added.
Police officer ROSS CARMEN pulled a paralyzed woman from the burning hotel and held her against a fire escape until firemen arrived to held him.
CARMEN said he watched another occupant, HARRY CURRIE, 60, clinging to a window sill as flames licked out at him, burning CURRIE'S hands and face.
"There wasn't any way to reach him," CARMEN said. "I was holding the woman, but the rail was too high and I couldn't pull her over. He must have hung there 10 minutes."
Fire fighters rescued CURRIE with a ladder.
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin Washington 1970-03-20