Chicago, IL L. Fish and Company Furniture Store Fire, Mar 1910


Twelve Persons Are Caught Like Rats in Trap


Automatic Elevators Close Doors Cutting Off Escape.

At the noon hour all that is left of the building is a shell and it is known that all save one girl who goes to death jumping from a window are cremated. List of dead and missing.

Chicago, March 25.-Twelve persons were burned to death and a number of others were injured, none fatally in a fire today which destroyed a six-story building occupied by L. Fish & Company, furniture dealers at Nineteenth and Wabash avenue.
While there are many rumors that the death list may mount up to fifteen or twenty, Fire Chief Horan declared at 1 p.m. that he believed al the dead had been recovered. At that hour the building had been entirely destroyed and nothing remained standing but the four walls.
Eleven bodies have been recovered from the ruins, and one victim, Miss Ethel Finkelstein, dies after she had plunged to death in an effort to escape the flames. The dead are:

List of Dead.
ROSA BRUCHE, seventeen, stenographer.
GERTRUDE QUINN, twenty, private secretary of Simon Fish.
MINOR BELL, advertising agent.
HERBERT M. MITCHELL, brother-in-law of Simon Fish.
ETHEL ANDERSON, stenographer.
MARY WARGO, assorter [sic].

The Seriously Injured.
Dr. William Kinsley, badly burned about hands and face.
John Schmidt.
William Peterson.
M. D. Geiner.
Isaac Fish.

The Fire Starts.
The fire started at 9 a.m. and is said to have been caused by an attempt of an office boy to fill a cigar lighter with alcohol. Whether the blaze originated in the basement, which was filled with inflammable materials, or on one of the upper floors, has not been definitely established.
Part of the building was used as a storehouse, and the furniture on all the floors furnished food for the flames, which spread with alarming rapidity.
A "4-11" alarm was turned in, and all the down-town fire companies hurried to the scene. When they reached it, the flames had apparently got so far as to make it impossible to save the building. Several firemen endeavored to enter the building, but were overcome by the smoke and heat and had to be carried out.

Dash to Stairways.
All the persons employed on this floor dashed for the stairways and elevator shafts as soon as the fire broke out.
Isaac Fish, a member of the firm, who had a narrow escape says the automatic elevator doors in the building closed shortly after the fire started. M. D. Geiner and Fish himself pried open the doors and slid down the elevator cable to the main floor, mangling their hands, but sustaining no other injuries.
Miss Finkelstein was one of the first to reach the stairways. In a panic of fear she ran from the stairway to a window, however, and leaped to the ground. She struck the edge of a glass covered awning at the main entrance of the building, and sustained injuries from which she died at St. Luke's hospital half an hour later.
A number of other girls employed by the company escaped by the stairways but sustained severe injuries. How many were hurt is not known. The fire caused a small panic at the Columbus hotel, a small hostelry adjoining the Fish building, but so far as is known none was injured.

Close to Rescue.
Miss Finkelstein and the other girl victims were near rescue just before Miss Finkelstein leaped to her death. The girls were leaning out of the front windows on the sixth floor of the building when the firemen put up a long ladder. Then several firemen started up. When they were half way, a sudden explosion forced a sheet of flame out of the front windows on the fourth floor, blocking their further progress. A few moments later Miss Finkelstein jumped.
William Peterson and John Schmidt declared the fire had started as the result of a lighted match being dropped into a can of benzene when a boy tried to fill a cigar lighter.
Dr. William Kinsley was badly burned about the face and hands while trying to rescue Miss Finkelstein and the other girls. He told a thrilling story:
"When I reached the scene," Kinsley said, "the upper floors of the building were a mass of flames. Hanging out of the windows on the sixth floor were five or six girls screaming for help."
"For God's sake, save us," they cried. I ran into the building and got as far as the third floor before the fire drove me out."

Headlong Plunge.
"As I came into the street again, I saw the Finkelstein girl throw up her hands and cry "Look out," and the next moment she plunged headlong from the sixth floor. She struck the glass canopy over the front entrance, and her body became lodged. When we picked her up her face was terribly burned and her body was badly torn and cut.
"By the time the firemen got their ladders against the front of the building, it was too late and the escape of the people on the sixth floor was cut off."
At 12:30 all hope that any of the missing persons were still alive had been abandoned. Shortly before the ruins had collapsed sufficiently to allow the firemen to search for bodies.
First they came on the bodies of three girls. All were burned to a crisp. The faces were entirely unrecognizable. The arms and legs had been burned entirely away.
Fifteen minutes later the bodies of two more girls were found and at 12:15 the bodies of two men. All of these bodies had to be taken out piece-meal-an arm being found here and head or a leg being found there.

The Marion Daily Star, Marion OH 25 Mar 1910