OMAHA FURNISHES THE LATEST HOTEL HORROR

OMAHA FURNISHES THE LATEST HOTEL HORROR

Another disastrous hotel fire has been added to the list of previous holocausts of the same class. This time the scene of the disaster was The Dewey hotel, at 13th and Farnam streets. Omaha. Neb. How many lives were lost will probably never be accurately known, as the register of the hostelry, in which were the names of the guests was burned. Three bodies were identified, those of the bartender, the sister of the proprietor’s wife and an employe of a local commission firm. A fourth body was found by the firemen before the building collapsed. It was not identified. The hotel was more than usually full, owing to the number of visitors who had poured into the city in order to see the automobile show which had been going on during the week ending Feb. 28. It is known that there were 50 persons sleeping in the hotel on the night of Feb. 27—the number was even placed as high as 75. Of these 30 were known to have escaped and four dead bodies were found, leaving 16 to he accounted for at the lowest estimate. The fall of the redhot roof covered all that had not escaped, and as the debris fell into the basement and buried them, the possibility of identifying the remains of those who died, or even acquiring accurate figures as to their number was beyond the power of the searchers. About one-third of the visitors were Nebraskans, and most of them had rooms near the only two exits. It is believed most of these escaped to the street. The fire, which was discovered early in the morning of Feb. 28, was probably caused by an explosion of gas in the rear of the building. A few weeks before the management had to wake up all the guests and throw open all the doors and windows because of a leasing gas main. The supply was cut off on that occasion. It is supposed that on the morning of the fire there was another leakage, either because the defective pipe had not been securely caulked and the leak stopped or because the plumbing was old and needed renewing throughout. When the fire department arrived they were handicapped by frozen hydrants, which caused considerable delay, and by the intense cold, the thermometer marking about 20 degrees below zero. The severity of the icy wind also caused the death of mure than one of those who escaped, another meeting his death by leaping from a window on the third floor; the fourth perished in the hotel itself. The fire was so fierce and so quick that nothing could be saved, nor could any rescues be effected after the first 30 or more guests had been roused in time to escape. Of the other guests and inmates who did not get away by the exits, several jumped from the windows and were badly hurt, while all the rest suffered from exposure to the piercing and frosty atmosphere. The building, which ranked as a second class hotel, was very old and a veritable firetrap, with only two exits, and these by no means wide enough to admit of quick egress. It was not provided with adequate means of escape from the windows, and, in fact, should long before been condemned as unfit for hotel purposes. As a structure it made no pretense at being fireproof or even fire-resistant, and the woodwork within—the beams, flooring, wainscoting, skirting boards, partitions and paneling—. was all as dry as tinder. Add to these the lack of brick partition walls, the absence of adequate private fire-protective apparatus, it will be seen that all the materials were on hand for a first class blaze, from whose rapid progress there was no possibility of escape. Considering the absence of adequate facilities for egress ami with only a night cleric to do all the rousing of the guests, it does seem as if there were someone to blame for the sacrifice of so many lives. Owing to the early hour in the morning at which the fire was discovered, there were very few people astir, and as the night clerk, who thought lie had heard an explosion, was driven hack hv the flames when he opened the office doors, there was obviously considerable delay in turning in an alarm. The flames had already made great headway before they assailed the night clerk. so that when the fire department arrived it had no power to stem their course, even if the hose and hydrants had not been frozen, or to attempt rescue work. The result was that after the department (of which Charles A. Saltzcn is chief) came up it was impossible to enter the building, whose roof and floors and furniture and safes, stoves and other heavy movables, had collapsed and buried those who had not escaped under hundreds of tons of redhot ashes and debris. It was many hours before the firemen had ceased working on the ruins. The loss, exclusive of those of the guests, was set down at $250,000. The lower floors of the hotel building were rented to the Raphae-Fred Clothing Company, the Hiller Liquor Company (whose stock helped to make, the flames all the fiercer) and the Adams Fxpress Company. In the case of each of these both stock and fixtures were a total loss.

RUINS OF THE DEWEY HOTEL OMAHA, WHERE MANY LIVES WERE LOST. THE STRUCTURE WAS OLD, WITH LITTLE ATTEMPT AT MODERN FIREPROOF CONSTRUCTION.

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