Lansing, MI Hotel Kerns Fire Disaster, Dec 1934

Hotel Kerns Cir. 1909 Hotel Kerns Fire Hotel Kerns Fire Hotel Kerns Marker


13 Known Dead, Many Injured Early Today; Scores Missing; Cries Of Dying Pierce Stormy Night.

(By Associated Press)
Lansing, Dec. 11 -- Smouldering ruins of the Kerns hotel and the icy waters of the Grand river today hid the fate of an undetermined number of guests, as police announced that only half of the approximately 200 persons lodged there when fire broke out this morning had been accounted for.
City officials expressed fear deaths from the fire may approach 50.
Chief of Police ALFRED SEYMOUR said that the appalling number of unaccounted for indicated a "heavy loss of life," although there were only 13 known dead and many of the missing guests were expected to be found safe.
The list of identified dead included the names of five legislators, who were here for a special session of the legislature.
They are:
Rep. CHARLES D. PARKER, Otisville.
Rep. DONALD E. SIAS, Midland.
Rep. T. HENRY HOWLETT, Gregory, Mich.
Rep. JOHN W. GOODWINE, Marlette.
Rep. VERN VOORHEES, of Albion.
Others identified dead included:
DAVID MONROE, assistant manager of the hotel.
I. WISHNEFF, Los Angeles.
Their escape cut off by the flames, many guests jumped from upper windows, some to the street, others into the Grand river, which flows at the rear of the hotel. A score or more of the guests were legislators, here for a special session of the legislature.

Lansing, Dec. 11 -- More than a dozen persons were believed to have died in flames which swept the Kerns hotel early this morning, according to revised estimates of police and fire officials.
Many more were injured, some so seriously they may die. The debris of the old brick structure, still smoking hot, was believed to hold a number of bodies. Eleven were known to have been cremated or leaped to their death in the Grand river.
The blaze broke out shortly before dawn. It spread with the speed of a prairie fire, boring its way through tinder-like partitions. Guests were trapped. Some, screaming, jumped from high windows into the river which flows directly behind the hotel. Others sought to make their way to safety by way of stairs.
One section of the hotel, known as the "L" floor, became a death house. It was on a lower level than the adjacent floors and the only exit was by steps leading up and along a corridor leading to the stairs to the lobby.
Coroner RAY GORSLINE estimated there "might be a dozen bodies" under the ice in the river. A watchman who discovered the fire and watched it travel its swift path of destruction said he saw three men leap from the windows. One of them, he said, broke through the ice and did not come up. Another struck an iron railing and fell sprawling into the water.
Within an hour after the flames broke out the squat, four-storied building had collapsed in a heap of ruins. The once ornate lobby was piled high with wreckage. Firemen continued to play streams of water on the walls and into the interior to hasten the work of recovering bodies.
Fire apparatus was driven away from portions of the burning building by the intense heat and the danger from falling walls. Persons unable to find their way to fire escapes appeared at windows, begging for rescue. FIremen were ordered to save as many as possible and ladders were raised wherever the searing flames would permit.
The list of dead included on legislator. Another was believed near death.
The fire was under control, but a number of guests still were missing and it was feared other bodies would be found in the ruins.
At least 30 injured were in the Edward W. Sparrow and the St. Lawrence hospitals.
One of these was Rep. DON E. SIAS, of Midland, who was expected to die.
The injured list also included Rep. CHARLES T. KIMBALL, of Jonesville, and Rep. VERN VOORHIES of Albion.
The hotel, in downtown Lansing, was destroyed, but firemen kept the flames from spreading to the adjoining Wentworth hotel.
Intense cold, only a few degrees above zero, added to the sufferings of
the guests.

Continued on page 2