Auburn, ME Nursery Fire, Jan 1945
Toys Strewn About Floor
Strewn around the floor were charred dolls and toys just where they had been dropped last night when sleep came to the little tots.
First to identify her baby was MRS. ARNOLD WIDEMAN, 23, a shoe factory worker, whose husband is in the Navy. She was near collapse as she said, "That's my little ARNOLD, JR." Seaman WIDEMAN, stationed in Chicago, visited his baby not long ago.
Private RUPERT SIROIS of the Army, home on furlough, aided his wife in finding their six-months-old CARMEN.
SIROIS saw the child for the first time last week. He saw her for the last time last night.
MRS. CHRISTINE THIBODEAU located her six months old DIANE at the morgue. Her husband couldn't have helped much if he had been there. He is in the Navy and had never seen the child. MRS. THIBODEAU works in a restaurant.
Commissioner PAGE ordered an immediate investigation. It will open tomorrow morning at the office of County Attorney ARMAND DUFRESNE. Likewise, the State Insurance Department will investigate the blaze, as a routine matter.
Throughout the day, relatives of the dead children claimed their kin. As quickly as they were identified, the bodies were released by Medical Examiner ROBERT H. RANDALL.
DR. RANDALL said a majority of the children died of suffocation but that all but three bodies were charred almost beyond recognition.
MRS. COTE, the nurse, died in attempting to save her five year old son, ROBERT. She was seen at the top of the stairs by MRS. BLANCHE TANGUAY, another nurse and sister of MRS. LACOSTE, but answered an appeal to "come down" by shouting she wanted to dress. Both bodies were found together.
With her two brothers MRS. WIDEMAN had decided to view the bodies although attendants counseled against it. Her child was one of the few not burned beyond recognition. As she turned from the room she became hysterical and collapsed. MRS. SIROIS suffered the same experience.
The flames left the one-and-a-half story wooden building, a former farmhouse, a mere shell. They had charred the outside wall near the kitchen and had burned through the roof above that room.
RONALD and GERALD, 8 months old twin sons of MR. And MRS. ALBERT LANDERVILLE of Lewiston, who had been placed in the home only last night, were among those who died.
Was Warming Bottle.
It was as she attended four-months old DIANE SAVARD, who perished in the blaze, that MISS TANGUAY discovered the fire. She was about to warm a bottle of milk for the child.
"When I went into the kitchen," MISS TANGUAY said, "the ceiling was a flame. I couldn't even get around the stove to the room where the telephone was. I ran back through the house calling 'fire' to awaken everyone, ran out the front door and around the house.
"I started in the back door to get to the room with the telephone, but it was full of flames. I ran over to STEWART'S (GUY L. STEWART, next door neighbor).
"I hollered to MRS. STEWART. Then I ran back to the house. I saw my sister (MRS. LACOSTE) coming through the front room. She had two babies but she couldn't hold them and dropped them. I ran in and grabbed her. Then I started back to STEWART'S."
"MISS TANGUAY said the kitchen stove burned coal, that as far as she knew it had never given any trouble.'
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