Five Children Burned in Juvenile Home at Grand Rapids
Five small children were burned to death and six others were injured in a fire which destroyed the Juvenile Detention Home, Walker township, near Grand Rapids, Mich., shortly before midnight, Monday, July 22. The fire is believed to have started from defective wiring in the laundry. The money loss will amount to about $25,000. The dead children were pulled from the ruins by firemen, who fought for more than 15 minutes with the heavily iron-screened windows. The firemen saw the children clutching frantically at the grated windows and many times their hands touched those of the children. They saw the little ones either collapse before their eyes or race into another part of the building, screaming with terror and pain. When the fire department arrived the entire rear part of the building was in flames. The crying of the children could be heard for blocks around. Volunteer fire fighters and the department immediately turned their attention to rescuing the children. Axes were brought into play and other firemen leaped into the blazing building. They found hallways locked and windows tightly screened. All lights had gone out, yet the firemen pressed on. Some, armed with flashlights, managed to unlock a few of the doors and aided children to safety. The flames had worked their way into the lower hallway, cutting off all hopes of escape by the stairway. A few found the fire escape on the north side of the building. The majority went into the front rooms, which were unbarred, and thence onto the porch roof. They either leaped or were carried to safety by firemen. Assistant Fire Marshal Higgins was early on the scene and personally attacked one of the screens. It was necessary to hack each wire separately and to strike several blows in order to sever it. It required from eight to 15 minutes to get through each screen. All the while this work was going on the firemen could see terror-stricken children running about in the rooms. Some would frantically climb the imprisoning screens to the top, then fall to the floor, only to try it again. “Those poor kiddes were caught like rats in a trap,” said one fireman. When finally the screens were hacked off their frames on one side the wire was found to be so stiff that the firemen hardly could bend it back sufficiently to make a hole big enough to pull a child through. The new pumper engine just purchased by the city made a record run from No. 3 engine house to the burning home. It arrived several minutes before the No. 5 engine appeared. Two lines of hose were laid immediately, while others of the firemen turned their attention to rescuing the children. Apparatus from No. 9, No. 5, No. 8 and No. 3 engine houses also responded. Assistant Fire Marshal Fred Higgins superintended the fight against the blaze.