Denver Suffers “Worst” Hotel Blaze
A WAITRESS was killed and 45 fire fighters injured, mostly from smoke, in a $1,000,000 fire that swept the Albany Hotel in downtown Denver, on the afternoon of September 2. Flames were discovered in the basement by a porter who gave the alarm to the hotel switch board operator. The operator quickly alerted other employees and caused the evacuation of the building which contained an estimated 150 guests. The fire department was notified at the same time, and at 2:22 p.m., phantom box 1531, Stout and 17th Streets, was transmitted bringing a response of seven companies, under the command of Assistant Chief Vernon Parraham, to the hotel.
Buildings are separate
The Albany is actually three separate buildings, all adjoining on Stout Street, and all built at separate times —1939, 1912 and 1906. The buildings are similar in design and construction and are seven stories high. Incoming companies were split, some stretching lines and others making a search for the occupants, a search that was intensified when hotel personnel informed them that one guest was unaccounted for and three hotel waitresses were feared trapped in the basement. Aerials and ground ladders were raised to the building and several people removed. Other fire fighters scurried up and down fire escapes leading guests to safety.
The first companies to stretch, fought their way down the inside stairs to the basement of the middle (1906) section where the fire began, but they were soon driven out by the intense heat and smoke. The fire then worked its way back to the rear of the building and began to travel up vertical arteries including the elevator shaft. A second alarm was transmitted, and the fire fighters settled down to a tough, four-hour battle against the stubborn blaze, which eventually went to a fourth alarm and required the services of 24 companies.
Ventilation was the first problem that Chief of Department Allie Feldman had to contend with and most of the windows on the first and second floors were cleared out, including a 10-by-7-foot section of glass brick. Smoke ejectors were placed in the openings but made little immediate impression on the thick smoke that was billowing out of the basement. So much air was used to supply demand masks that the Denver department had to call on neighboring communities for both additional masks and spare air tanks. These were quickly supplied by many suburban departments including, Bancroft, Skyline, Evergreen, Arvada, Englewood and College View.
—Centenntial Productions photo
Centennial Productions photo
First floor of concrete
The first floor of the building was reinforced concrete and while this construction helped the firemen in holding back the spread of fire, it also handicapped them in getting water into the cellar. In a lengthy and exhausting process, jackhammers were used to cut holes in the concrete for the placement of cellar pipes. Periodically, the fire seemed to die down, only to flare up again more fiercely than ever, and at one time the flames reached the third floor before being beaten back. Shortly after 5:00 p.m. a baekdraft occurred at the rear of the building which sent flame shooting up to the roof. It was at this point that the fourth alarm was transmitted by Chief Feldman, and the additional units were thrown into the battle. The fire was once again beaten back to the basement where it was finally declared under control at 6:35 p.m. Men searching through the ruins came upon the body of a waitress shortly after.
Dr. Harold Goldman, fire surgeon, had his hands full treating the 45 firemen for smoke inhalation and cuts. His ambulance and eight resuscitators were stationed at the front of the building and the patients were so many at one time that he had to call for help from the Denver General Hospital.
Chief Feldman called it the worst hotel fire in Colorado’s history, and the only fourth alarm he could recall in his 16 years in office. Thirty-five lines of all types were used to conquer this blaze.