Christmas Tree Candle Causes Death of 37, Mostly Children, in School Fire
A small school room crowded with about 200 persons, mostly children, attending a Christmas Eve celebration; a lighted candle igniting cotton on the Christmas tree around which the children were gathered receiving gifts from Santa Claus; the instantaneous burning of the tree and surrounding decorations; windows covered on the outside by heavy wire netting and an only door which opened inwardly—this is the situation that resulted in the death of thirty-two children and their school teacher on Christmas Eve in a schoolhouse at Babb’s Switch, about seven miles front Hobart, Okla.
Death entered the Christmas celebration suddenly, cutting off at its height the program rendered by the children of the neighborhood. The last little girl had spoken her ce. and a jolly Santa Claus distributed candy from the t tstmas tree to eager hands. While reaching tor the lev. remaining candy sacks. Santa’s arm struck a candle or. the tree. The tiny blaze fell from its perch and immediately a hall of cotton on the tree hurst into flames. In an mstant the room was in a panic. Men and women sprang tothe only exit at the rear end and to the windows. Beating out the window panes they found a heavy wire netting barring the way to safety. The windows shattered, a brisk wind blew through the room fanning the flames. The flimsy structure burned like firewood Many of the inmates were crushed in the jam in front of the only door which opened inwardly. Eventually the door burst open under the pressure of the frantic jam inside.
Mrs. Florence Hill, the teacher at the school was killed while rescuing her pupils after she had made an exit. Although her husband sought to restrain her, she went back in a futile effort to find some avenue of escape for the struggling children and sacrificed her life when she might have escaped. Some who succeeded in getting out of the burning building turned rescuers and some rode their cars to bring relief from Hobart. It was not long before a motor caravan rushed to the scene of the tragedy. Physicians and volunteer nurses rendered aid to the injured and removed many to the nearest hospitals and other sanctuaries. With the injured removed the sad task of recovering the dead was supervised bySheriff I . H. Shaddock. Because of the condition of the bodies it was decided that only a canvass for missing persons would produce identifications, and the sheriff’s force, in the early Christmas morning, started a house-to-house check, making note of the gaps in each unily circle.
Mayor F. E. Gillespie of Hobart called a mass meeting on Christmas Day and committees were named to take care of conditions resulting from this tragedy. It had beer, decided to bury all the unidentified in one large grave in the Hobart Cemetery.
Installing Fire Sirens in Joplin’s Business Section our new fire alarm sirens were installed last month on street corners in the business district of Joplin, Mo. According to Mayor Taylor the installations which were contra ted for with the Home Telephone Company will be maintained by that company. The sirens have been strung alnny the route followed by apparatus iti passing through the business section of the city in answering the greater number of alarms turned in.