Two Die in Hotel Fire

Two Die in Hotel Fire

Two men were suffocated, three were injured, eight were rescued while unconscious and eighty-five others periled when a three-alarm fire swept through the Altamont Hotel. 16th and Mission Streets, San Francisco.

Harry Cahill, 30, a teamster, and Bogdo Seferovich, 50, a cook, were suffocated as they attempted to escape from their top floor—the fourth—rooms in the old wooden building, one of the Mission District’s landmarks.

Ironically, the man whose carelessness police said was responsible for the fatal blaze, Ernest Nelson, 40, escaped uninjured but became so unnerved he was taken to San Francisco Hospital for observation.

The men injured were two policemen, who discovered the blaze, and a fireman, John Hourihan of Truck 7. The eight unconscious men carried from the building by the heroic police and firemen were revived by first aiders in the crowd and crews from Mission, Central and Alemany Emergency Hospitals sent to the fire by a special call for help.

Policemen Joseph Swetnam and George Hess were cruising up 16th Street at Mission when they spotted flames and smoke coming from the fourth floor room of Nelson, who, it later developed, had been smoking in bed.

Stopping only long enough to pull Box 5236 at the corner, the two policemen rushed in and with the help of the night clerk and several tenants ran from floor to floor arousing guests. As they reached the fourth floor, they began stumbling over the bodies of tenants who already had been felled by the smoke. The policemen rescued a number of tenants from the fourth floor by using the fireman’s drag before they were overcome and taken out by first arriving firemen.

They were rescued just as a portion of the roof fell on them and it was then that Hourihan was injured.

The two dead men were lodged in a corner of the building where the roof caved in.

“We tried our best to get them,” Swetnam said from his hospital bed, “but the going was too tough.”

The flames spread rapidly through the building and the first arriving chief from Engine 7’s quarters, just a block up the street on 16th. sounded a third alarm, which brought in Acting Chief Albert J. Sullivan.

The night clerk. Martin Hall, had to be restrained by firemen from going to the fourth floor after he had already carried and led a number of people to safety.

Truckmen from Truck 7 carried several people to safety and aided others down ladders thrown up to the fourth and third floor windows.

Damage was estimated at $60,000.

The box was struck at 4.20 a.m. and the third alarm eight minutes later.

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