Asheville, NC Hospital Fire, Mar 1948

Hospital Fire Highland Hospital In Flames


Asheville, N. C., March 11 -- (AP) -- Fire roared through a mental hospital here early today and snuffed out the lives of nine women patients.
They died as 20 others, some screaming, some calm, were led to safety.
Flames quickly engulfed the four-story central building of the Highland Hospital for nervous diseases. Wailing of some of the 29 women echoed over the spacious grounds. Firemen, police, nurses, doctors and townspeople rushed to the rescue.
But seven women were trapped on the upper floors. Two others removed by firemen died in a short while.
It was the third fire in the hospital in less than a year. Fire Chief J. C. FITZGERALD said two broke out last April. One ignited a mattress and the other started from oil-soaked rags tucked under a stairway.
Chief FITZGERALD said he believed today's fire started in the kitchen of the hospital's central building. But that had not been officially determined.
DR. B. T. BENNETT, hospital medical director, estimated the fire loss at $300,000.
MISS BETTY UBOENGA of Lincoln, Ill., assistant supervisor, described how she and Supervisor FRANCES RENDER of Scarboro, W. Va., first went after the helpless patients.
"We felt that the others were awake and would help themselves," she said. "As soon as we got the helpless ones out and safely put away elsewhere, we rushed back to help others. By then we knew some had been trapped. Some of them were awake, we know, and were rousing the others."
"It seemed no time at all until the entire building was like a furnace."

Florence Morning News South Carolina 1948-03-12




Asheville, March 11. -- (AP) -- Nine women patients perished here early today in the blazing inferno of a mental hospital fire.
Seven of the victims were trapped helplessly on upper floors of the four-story central building of the Highland hospital for nervous diseases, DR. B. T. BENNETT, medical director, reported.
Two others were evacuated by firemen who dashed into the fiery structure but they died soon afterward.
The hospital released the following names of the dead:
MRS. A. T. HIPPS of Asheville.
MRS. W. B. KENNEDY of Kinston.
MRS. IDA ENGEL of Clayton, Mo.
MRS. JULIUS DOERING of Johnson City, Tenn.
MRS. J. R. BOROCHOFF of Rome, Ga.
MISS M. DeFRIESE of Bristol, Tenn.
MRS. F. SCOTT FITZGERALD of Montgomery, Ala., widow of the author.
MRS. G. C. WOMACK of Friendsville, Tenn.
The fire, discovered about midnight, started in the kitchen of the hospital's central building. It quickly spread to an elevator shaft and was licking the building's roof when firemen arrived.
Screams of trapped women ran gout above the roaring conflagration as doctors, nurses, firemen and police ran through the blazing structure, risking their lives in an effort to save the 20 patients in the building.
They quickly huddled the rescued patients into another building where some sat silently and others yelled hysterically.
The death toll was announced by Dr. Bennett after he and hospital authorities checked the list of patients in the building. They searched the spacious hospital grounds for them in the futile hope that they had escaped and wandered away.
Police Captain Harold Enloe was the first man to reach the building.
"I could hear screaming on the third floor," he related. "Flames by then were lapping through the roof of the building."
Every available piece of the city's fire fighting equipment was called out and off-duty firemen were rushed to the scene.
The flames, leaping high into the air, lit up a large section of this mountain resort city. About 1,000 spectators many of them dressed in pajamas, milled helplessly around, unable to assist the trapped women.
Dr. Bennett said some of the hospital's most violent patients were in the destroyed building but they were among the first to be released.
He reported that most of those dying were on the top floor of the wood and stone structure.
The hospital, housed in several buildings, about three miles from the heart of Asheville, is a unit of Duke university hospital in Durham.

The Robesonian Lumberton North Carolina 1948-03-11