Huntington, WV Nursing Home Fire, November 1945

From the Huntington Advertiser 16 November 1945:



Fire broke out at 10:40 A.M. today on the second floor of the two-story Virginia Rice nursing home at 711 Sixth Avenue and 42 elderly men and women patients, 13 of them charges of the Cabell County Department of Public Assistance, were rescued by firemen from Central station and city police.

The inmates, many bedfast, were removed scantily-clad in ambulances to Huntington hospitals for temporary shelter. Some of them were burned slightly. Others, hysterical in the excitement, had to be carried by force from the blazing home.

When the firemen and police arrived, wild excitement prevailed in the home, they reported. The residents, terrified, were running about inside, screaming and shouting. Captain C.C. Mayo, acting fire chief, assigned most of the two companies that answered the alarm to rescue work. Patrolmen of the police traffic squad and other officers joined in carrying persons from the home.

Two women, trapped in a rear room on the second floor were saved by C.B. Neff, custodian of city jail labor, who groped through smoke to the door of their room, kicked in the door and led the women to safety. Mr. Neff's son, Henry Neff, jail cook, rescued an elderly man. Radio Patrolman Tom Ball and Fred Priddy of the police headquarters emergency squad saved a half-dozen inmates.

Suffer from Exposure
A few of the patients suffered from exposure in the chilly air as they were led from the flaming home to waiting ambulances. One senile man wandered barefooted and in a nightgown across the street and had to be brought back.

Every funeral home in Huntington and Chesapeake, O. sent ambulances to the scene in response to calls from Acting Police Sergeant harry Beheler. As fast as the old people were removed from the home, some wrapped in bed sheets, they were put in the ambulances and taken to hospitals. The police ambulance made a half-dozen trips, driven by Patrolman James Finley.

Interior of Home Gutted
The interior of the nursing home, once the residence of the late Attorney John W. Perry, and later the headquarters of a World War I veterans' organization, was gutted. The loss is partly covered by insurance, according to Mrs. Rice, the proprietor. Several thousand dollars' worth of War Bonds belonging to Mrs. Rice were saved by a colored woman attendant.

E.C. Rice, husband of Mrs. Rice and a retired employee of the International Nickel Co. was seriously burned on the hands and arms while aiding in rescue work. He was treated at a hospital.

Fireman is Injured
Fireman Leonard Hartz as cut on one hand by falling glass. He also received hospital attention.

Captain Mayo got the alarm by radio while returning to Central Station from a fire at a dump near Fairfield Stadium. He was acting as chief in the absence of Fire Chief Brooks McClure and Captain Russell Hatten. Captain Hatten was assistant chief until the city council abolished the position.

Captain Mayo said the origin of the fire is unknown. He paid the police department a tribute for their co-operation in rescue work.

The fire fighters, in turn, were praised highly by the police for their performance. The alarm reached Central station at 10:44 A.M. The fire was out at 11:10 A.M. and all the patients were safely housed in the hospitals by 11:20 A.M.


From the Huntington Advertiser 17 November 1945


Damage to the 18-room Virginia Rice nursing home, 711 Sixth Avenue, gutted by fire yesterday morning, was being appraised today, as the last of 42 elderly men and women inmates were recovering from minor burns and shock. Only four of the 42 remained in hospitals today. The others were at their own homes or were being cared for by friends and relatives.

Tom De Silvey, Arnold Adkins and Stark Curry remained at Memorial Hospital, where their condition was described as satisfactory. Mr. De Silvey was burned slightly and the others were under treatment for shock.

Other Patients Listed
Other patients of the nursing home follow:

Laura McComas, treated for burns at Guthrie Hospital and released; Mrs. Nettie Runyon, mother of K.A. Runyon, home; Steven Gosney, home; Garland Testament, home; Sam Laverty of Newark, O, Chesapeake and Ohio Hospital and later released; a Mrs. Haley, taken to her home at 622 Thirteenth Street; Mrs. Emily Newton, Memorial Hospital and later released; Creed Kelly, home; Same Tuttle of Parkersburg, taken to the Rice residence; Paul Frazier, Kenova, home; Alice Chatfield of Logan, taken to a Huntington residence; Mattie Miller, St. Mary's Hospital and later released; Ella Cunningham, Memorial Hospital and later released; Mrs. J.S. Redmond, home; Anna Franklin, Mrs. Emma Jones of Ironton, Mrs. Hattie Carroll and Mrs. Sara Van Kirk, mother of John Day, all to Memorial Hospital; Mrs. Eliza Wheeler, mother of F.E. MacCorkle, home; G.R. Mitchell of Russell, Mrs. Eliza Jane Gray, Mrs. Ella Russell, Mrs. Marina Thomlinson, and Mrs. Ida Hailey of Harveytown, all to Memorial Hospital and later released.

Mrs. Rice, proprietor of the nursing home, told police the list as given above is incomplete. Her records were destroyed and she drew upon her memory for a register of inmates.

Mrs. Rice estimated her loss at $5000 in equipment and furniture. This loss is partly covered by insurance. no immediate estimate of the damage to the building was made. It is owned by Mrs. Charles S. Porter of Huntington and Jacksonsville, Fla. Mrs. J. Bert Schroeder, whose husband handles Mrs. Porter's real estate interests, said the building is valued at $30,000 and that the loss is covered by insurance.


Theresa's Note: Despite the fact that the residents of the nursing home were all listed in satisfactory health, at least three would go on to die from complications due to the fire and exposure.

Thomas De Silvey passed away on 23 November 1945 due to pneumonia, with a contributing cause being listed on his death certificate as being the November 16th fire.

Harriet "Hattie" Carroll passed away on 18 November 1945 due to shock.

Arnold Adkins passed away on 20 November 1945 due to "burns over face and upper body."

Death certificates for these victims can be found at the online database at