Thomas Hotel Fire, 1961

Photo of the Thomas Hotel
Photo of the Thomas Hotel

At least 38 were injure and 20 dead after a fire started in the room of a tenant on Jan. 6, 1961.  The fire was originally to have been extinguished, but it proved to be a mistake.

There were approximately 150 occupants in the Hotel at the time of the fire and many had jump from upper story windows to escape the fire and smoke.

When the mattress first caught fire from careless smoking, the tenant and a neighbor thought they had put it out.  By not calling the fire department, the mattress was not removed from the room and building and it re-lit later on.

The fire marshal at the time, Albert Hayes, stated in the newspapers that the rapid spread of smoke and fire was caused by doors being left open. He began a push to require changes in the building and fire codes to mandate all stairways and corridors to be protected with fire resistant doors.

Another example of a fire claiming lives that could have been prevented. IF they would have called the fire department, which had automatic alarms been installed may have happen, the mattress would likely have been removed.

IF the door to the stairs would have been closed and rated, the smoke and fire spread would not have been as fast and widespread as it was.

Fire codes make a difference. Be thorough and enforce them. It takes only a small event to cause a catastrophy.

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