Omaha, NE Dewey Hotel Fire, Feb 1913

Omaha NEB Dewey Hotel Fire 2-28-1913.jpg

MANY PERISH IN HOTEL FIRE

The Dewey Hotel at Omaha Proves to Be a Regular Death Trap

OMAHA, Neb., Feb. 28. -- An awe-struck crowd of 3,000 people, mostly sobbing women and relatives of the persons believed to have perished in the Dewey hotel, which burned to the ground this morning, stood about the ruins of the building at noon today watching an army of firemen and policemen digging in the smoking debris.

It is now believed that twenty bodies will be taken from the ruins before night. One man jumped to death. Six persons are in hospitals seriously injured and eight others received minor injuries. The property loss is $200,000.

Two survivors declare that not more than sixteen escaped and there were fifty registered. There is a probability that others not registered were in the building. The stories of the rescued hint at locked doors and inaccessible fire escapes, which probably resulted in the penning of the guests in the halls.

Firemen are making rapid headway in clearing the debris, but the portion of the building containing most of the guests caved in first and is now under twenty-five feet of wreckage.

The police say that undoubtedly some of the persons that escaped have gone to their homes and not reported their safety. The hotel accommodated at various times a number of guests who remained in the hotel but one night and sought to avoid publicity. For this reason only a search of the ruins will disclose the exact fatalities.

A Fire Trap.
The Dewey hotel was a three-story structure of brick and had formerly been five stories. Owing to the age of the structure and its character it burned like tinder.

The police estimate of the dead is made on the authority of Jesse D. Nolde, the manager, who was the last to leave the building and who said that at least fifty people were registered there last night. At least a dozen of them were women.

A complete search of the building will be necessary to establish a death list.

Caught in the blazing structure, which seemed to suddenly burst into fire from basement to the ground floor, guests fled to the windows and hallways.

From the number of men and women dragged from the front entrance by rescuers, the police believed that many were overcome in the upper hallways and died there.

One Guest's Experience.
T. Connor, of Ellinwood, Neb., who was a guest in the hotel, declared he was awakened by the cry of fire. He rushed from his room and saw the hallway packed with screaming, frantic women, each trying to escape through the wall of flames and smoke. He rushed to the rear and luckily located a window near a fire-escape and made his way to the street. He is positive that all of the frantic guests who were jammed in the halls and rooms perished.

The firemen were handicapped in fighting the flames by a temperature ranging near zero, and suffered terrible hardships.

For a time it seemed that the entire block would go, but the fire was finally confined to the hotel and the stores beneath it.

The hotel building burned so rapidly that ladders were burned under the firemen as they sought to reach the upper floors, where frantic men and women were calling for aid.

Awakened by a Scream.
According to guests who escaped the first intimation of the fire came when a woman's scream awakened them. The building was then filled with smoke and within half an hour it was in ruins.

Mrs. C. E. Wilkens says she was awakened by her sister, Mrs. BONNEVIEU, and upon opening their chamber door saw the halls filled with smoke and flames. They broke a window in their room. Mrs. BONNEVIEU dropped unconscious and was carried to the window by Mrs. Wilkens, who then was almost overcome. Firemen rescued Mrs. Wilkens, but MRS. BONNEVIEU was burned to death.

TINA NIELSON, a chambermaid, rushed from her room to the front of the building, opened a window on the second floor and leaped out. She was picked up unconscious and bleeding. At the hospital it was stated that her right was broken and she may have sustained internal injuries.

Shortly after the maid jumped, the body of CHARLES CUMMINGS, a bartender, was picked up from the sidewalk. He had leaped from the third story in his night clothing. His body was horribly mangled.

Rescue Work.
Policeman Schwager, who was called to the fire, carried out two unidentified women and he himself narrowly escaped being burned to death upon attempting to re-enter the building. He said that at least a dozen unconscious persons were lying on the threshold when he entered. Those were carried out by J. Foy, a broker.

Of the other unfortunates, who were guests in the hotel, little can be learned. The flames spread so rapidly that few could be aroused.
It will be noon before any of the bodies can be recovered.

There are conflicting stories as to the cause of the fire. A night watchman in the neighboring building saw sparks coming from the chimney and turned in an alarm. A drug clerk across the street declared he heard an explosion, but this is discredited.

The known dead are:
A. R. PORTER, of Broken Bow.
DWIGHT BRUCE, of Broken Bow.
CHARLES CUMMINGS, fifty-five, bartender.
MRS. ALICE BONEVIEU.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN, fifty.

The injured are:
VIVIE STIFF, fourteen, overcome by smoke.
TINA NIELSON, chambermaid, leg broken.
MRS. E. C. WILKINS, badly burned.

Firemen Handicapped.
The firemen were handicapped by the dense smoke and were only in the building a few minutes when ordered out just in time to escape the falling walls. All the firemen who entered the hotel tell of the pitiful screams of the frantic women and the horror of stumbling over unconscious forms in the dark.

The work of rescue had barely started when the rotten walls gave way. Many of the firemen had narrow escapes. Scores of the fire-fighters staggered forth with hands and faces burned to a crisp and overcome by the tragedy they were forced to abandon.

The women rescued were taken to nearby stores until the ambulances arrived.

The futile attempt to drown the flames was hindered by poor pressure and the cold weather. Two nozzlemen, standing at the rear of the building directing the stream on the flames, were unable to remove their hands from the hose. Ice had formed on the handles and encasted[sic] their hands.

Acting Manager Nolds of the hotel declared that the entire loss, including furnishings would not be more than $200,000.

The Fort Wayne News Indiana 1913-02-28

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TWENTY LIVES LOST IN HOTEL FIRE IN OMAHA EARLY THIS MORNING

"The Dewey" a Three-Story Building Burned Like Tinder - Many Guests Smothered and Burned to Death Without a Chance to Escape - Flames Spread So Rapidly Firemen Could Do Little to Save Shrieking Inmates.

(By United Press.)
Omaha, Neb. Feb. 28. -- Trapped in a tinder box structure known as the Dewey hotel, with exit doors locked and fire escape ladders not in their positions not less than twenty, and possibly twice that many persons were burned to death early today. So rapidly did the flames spread that the first fireman to arrive could only penetrate the first floor and were then forced to retreat leaving the groaning, terrified victims who died with safety almost in reach.

Veteran firemen declare the appeals of the trapped men and women piteous in the extreme, but the entire structure was a seething mass of flames into which an individual could hope to go.

The temperature was far below zero and the work of the firemen was hampered by frozen hydrants, bursting hose and masses of ice on hose and ladders. Two firemen were frozen fast to a nozzle.

Because the register was burned it will be impossible to decide the number of victims until the entire wreckage is searched. Six seriously hurt are in hospitals. Eight others were treated by ambulance surgeons. The property loss is $200,000.

Omaha, Neb., Feb. 28. -- At 10:00, the police and firemen estimated that over twenty lives had probably been lost in the Dewey hotel fire early to-day. At that hour three bodies had been identified and it was believed that twenty were in the ruins, although the register was burned and no list of the guests is available.

There are conflicting stories as to the cause of the fire. A night watchman in a neighboring building saw sparks coming from the chimney and turned in an alarm. A drug clerk across the street declared he heard an explosion but this is discredited.

Burned Like Tinder.
The Dewey hotel was a three-story structure of brick and had formerly been five stories. The upper floors had been condemned and removed. Owing to the age of the structure and its character it burned like tinder.

The police estimate of the dead is made on the authority of Jesse D. Nold, the manager, who was the last to leave the building, and who said that at least fifty people were registered there last night. At least a dozen of them were women, in addition to the dead and injured, twenty persons have not been accounted for and are believed to be in the still smouldering ruins.

A complete search of the building will be necessary to establish a death list.

Caught in the blazing structure, which seemed to suddenly burst into fire from basement to the ground floor, guests fled to the windows and hallways.

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