Chicago, IL Reliance Hotel Fire, Dec 1953


Chicago, Dec. 17 (INS) -- A discharged mental patient and five firemen, including a battalion commander, were killed today when fire turned a 65-year-old Skid Row hotel into a crumbling death trap.
The six dead were crushed beneath collapsing timbers and bricks of the Reliance Hotel.
Twenty-eight firemen were buried, many for more than 13 hours in near zero weather. All but five were saved.
JOHN TYBOR, 45-year-old hotel resident, had been released from Manteno State Hospital only Wednesday and a note found with his body launched a probe of possible arson. The note read:
"I'm really crazy. I killed 15 people only. I also set fire to 12 apartment buildings, not to mention all the girls I raped."
The dead firemen were identified as:
Capt. NICHOLAS SCHMIDT, commander of battalion 107.
ROBERT JORDAN, of truck 2.
ROBERT SHAACK, of hook & ladder No. 19.
GEORGE MALIK, of engine 34.
JOHN JAROSE, engine 31.
Fireman MALIK'S wife, JULIA, kept away by a police cordon, waited tensely for more than four hours before her husband's crushed body was recovered.
Ice-coated firemen and work crews scooped debris carefully, piece by piece, to prevent further cave-ins.
More than 50 tenants of the three-story hotel fled to the street when the fire broke out at about 2 a.m. Firemen brought the flames under control within an hour and a half and entered the ruins to investigate. It was then that the collapse occurred.
Fire Lt. ALBERT JOSLIN of hook & ladder No. 2, was plunged three stories to the basement. From a St. Mary's hospital bed he said:
"I'm lucky I got out in as good shape as I am. As the noise of falling debris settled down, we started yelling among each other to see who could move."
"One of the guys said he thought he was lying on a body."
Fire Department Chaplain Monsignor William Gorman picked his way through the ruins and administered the last rites of the Roman Catholic church to moaning victims crushed beneath the rubble.
At one spot a muffled voice called to the priest:
"Say a prayer for my two buddies. They're beneath me. I think they're dead."
One by one the final victims were freed from fire blackened debris. Most of them went to a hospital. Others went to the morgue.
When the body of fireman JORDAN was recovered, his widow, the mother of three children, asked to view his body. She said:
"I want to know for sure it's BOB. It might be somebody else."
When she had seen her husband's body, she turned away silently.

Morning Avalanche Lubbock Texas 1953-12-18