On this day in 1924, children and their parents were gathered in the Babbs Switch School for a visit from Santa Clause. It would end up being a tragic Christmas story and a reason for inspections and codes. The school had been recently painted with terpintine used for paint thinner. After windstorms had damaged the building, it was restored and repaired and metal mesh was placed over the windows to protect them.
The program and gathering took place in a small building of approximately 1200 square feet and people were standing against the walls and in the aisles. Santa started to hand out presents from under the tree which had lit candles on it for decoration. Santa’s suit had cotton trim on it and was lit after bumping into the tree and lit candles.
A panic started and the tree was knocked over, which was a real tree, and the fire grew quickly. As people attempted to exit, many were not able to escape because the door opened to the inside instead of out. This allowed only one side of the building to easisly exit, trapping those on the other side of the room. A total of 36 people died from the fire and many others injured from burns.
This is another reminder of where fire and building codes have come and that we must monitor and inspect these occupancies to ensure that all safety requirements are met. Stay safe and be careful.