With Our Readers
Juvenile Fatalities Can Happen
To the Editor:
I have just finished reading your article in the February, 1955, issue concerning loss of life among the younger folk of our nation. This is the second time I have read it prior to a fatal fire in which seven young people lost their lives, on the East side of Tacoma, Wash.
Jay Stevens says “It does not need to happen.” I echo the statement, “Why does it happen?” Jay Stevens, and Chiefs Fitzgerald of Seattle and Grenfell of Portland were in Tacoma to see me on April 7, concerning the home inspection program I have been carrying out, and we talked about the loss of life in the Eastern part of our Country. At that time I believed in my heart that it could never happen in Tacoma. But it did, and this is the account of that tragedy.
A Mrs. M. . . . had gone to a drive-in theatre in Tacoma with her boy friend (she is now in process of getting a divorce from her husband who is in San Diego). She left her family of six in the care of her 15-year-old brother who was on leave from the State Training School (he was in for many robberies—in fact, more than any boy of his age in the northwest).
The house in which they lived was a sub-standard, l 1/2-story frame dwelling with cedar shingles, wood walls and ceilings, covered with paper, open stairway off the kitchen and, at the time, all windows were closed and hall doors open.
It appears that all were asleep at the beginning of the fire, which started in our opinion from the motor of an old refrigerator in the kitchen. Engine Co. 4 is only 2 1/2 blocks away from the house which is on a dead-end street. The two nearest fire plugs are each 1 1/2 blocks away from the house that burned.
Everything worked in our favor—that is, water, response and equipment, except that the alarm was delayed. It is our opinion that all occupants were dead before the telephone alarm was sent in by the neighbors. A neighbor boy returned home about 12:30 a.m. and we received the alarm at 12:54 a.m.
The dead were M….. E…… age 7; S….. J…… 3; R….. D…… 8 1/2 L….. A….. 9: T….. E…… 11; N….. 1…… 12 1/2 and the brother, J….. E….. C……age 15 years.
Mrs. M….. came home at approximately 2:00 a.m. and it was my job to inform her of the loss of her entire family. I hope you never have to tell such a fact, or see the look on a mother’s face that I witnessed.
H. C. FISK, Chief,
Tacoma Fire Department.