INQUIRY INTO THE IROQUOIS THEATRE

INQUIRY INTO THE IROQUOIS THEATRE

The inquiry before the coroner into the Iroquois theatre disaster at Chicago threatens to be protracted, if not thorough. Already, however, it has been shown that the skylights in the rear of the stage were tampered with since the fire, as if for the purpose of destroying whatever proofs of negligence might be furnished by them; that several of the exits were locked; and that there was negligence on the part of the authorities in permitting the theatre to be opened for business in the face of the conditions existing at the time. Fire Marshall Musham’s testimony was not favorable to those on whose shoulders lies the responsibility of insuring the safety of the public in such buildings. It is needless to say that there were those in the city who wished to blame the fire department for the disaster. He, however, showed the jury that he had nothing to do with the theatre—that came within the province of the building department, on whose duties he would have been encroaching, had he tried to enforce the ordinance. He could not insist on the theatre being fitted with sprinklers and fire apparatus; hisduty was simply to approve of such, when notified. He was not notified, nor did the firman attached to the theatre (not a department fireman) report to him as he should have done. He himself had been too busy in November fighting 800 fires to see to that and other details connected with the theatre, which had been opened without his knowledgeHad he been notified of its opening, be would certainly have inspected it himself. The examiner then said: “The fireman who was assigned or hired at the Iroquois theatre stated that, in his opinion, if hose had been placed in the fly gallery, on the right-hand side of that theatre, and a stream had been turned on that fire when he first saw it he could have put it out; the ordinances also require that a fire house and extinguishers should be placed in the fly gallery; but there were no hose or fire extinguishers in the different portions of the treatre; do you consider that that fireman did his full duty in not reporting to you that the ordinance had not been complied with?” Chief Musham said the did and that the latter should have reported to the head of the fire departmentHe added that the Iroquois was the only theatre in Chicago which failed to employ a fireman to be kept permanently on duty under the approval of 1 he fire marshall, as required by the ordinance About four weeks before the theatre was opened the latter was called over to the Iroquois to look atsome wooden beams. At that time he saw a uniformed fireman on duty there named Seller The chief had aoproved of his being on duty at McVicker’s, but had not been notified of his transfer, and did not approve of his new appointment The theatre never informed him that there was a fireman on duty. The chief admitted he was not as familiar with the ordinances as he might be, and that the fire escapes of the Iroquois were entirely inadequate, being too narrow and not sufficiently protected from flames At the same time he did not consider it his duty to condemn the fire escapes.

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