Los Angeles, CA Hotel Fire, Mar 1952

Los Angeles CAL Hotel St. George Fire 1952.jpg


Los Angeles, March 25. (AP) -- Fire which flashed swiftly in a six-floor hotel killed at least six men today. A night clerk who ran through the corridors knocking on doors, then hurried back to his switchboard to warn others by telephone, was credited with saving many lives.
A estimated 150 were in the St. George Hotel at 115 E. Third St. when the blaze broke out at 3 a.m. Police said 10 were hospitalized with burns or injuries.
The night clerk, Leland Whitehouse, 57, said:
"The first I knew of the fire was when someone called down from the fourth floor when he saw smoke. I ran upstairs. I went down a back stairway from the fourth to the third floor. Then I saw the fire. It was coming from Room 312 at the rear. The door was open."
One of the occupants of 312, identified by police as A. D. BERNHARDT, fell or jumped to his death in any alley. The other occupant, EMIL MONGEE, was in a hospital with critical burns. Until they could question him, fire department arson investigators said they had no idea how the blaze started.
Whitehouse said the two men checked in about 1:30 a.m.
Fire Captain Claude Conlan said a check showed that the hotel's second floor fire hose was so rotted it was not usuable, and a weight-balanced fire escape ladder at the rear, leading from the second floor to the ground, was wired up.
Asked about this, Manager Floyd Porter, 58, told a reporter: "I don't know anyhing about it. I've only been manager for a month. Besides, that's the fire department's business."
The hotel is just off Main St., has a permanent population of about 80, and caters chiefly to men transients.
Of the dead beside BERNHARDT, all suffocated.
Two were identified tentatively as J. R. MOORE and CHARLES ELLIS BLACK, addresses undetermined.
Identified by fingerprints were GEORGE WASHINGTON SMITH and JACK EDWIN LUSK, both presumably of Los Angeles.
Critically injured in the blaze were EMIL MONGEE, 29, of Seattle and 2 1/2 year old GLORIA CLOWER of Las Vegas, Nev.
Hospitalized for smoke inhalation are JOHN ARTHUR KARR, 50, no address; MRS. JEAN CLOWER, 23 (mother of GLORIA); TOM CAMPBELL, 61, Las Vegas; EMMETT RICHARDSON, Reseda; JOHN RICHARDS, Pawtuckett, R.I.; BLANCHE CAMPBELL, 50, wife of TOM CAMPBELL.
General Hospital ataches said an operation will be necessary for little GLORIA CLOWER to relieve bronchial congestion caused by smoke.
Hospitalized with minor injuries were ALFRED BUCKEE, 70, Vancouver, B.C.; and WILLIAM B. ROY, 38, Los Angeles.
Police and hotel officials lined up survivors in the lobby making a room check. Many appeared dazed.
Policeman W. E. Meyer said he ran up a stairway from the lobby to the second floor and found a child lying at the head of the stairs. Afterward, he couldn't remember whether it was a boy or a girl. After getting oxygen the child was sped off to a hospital.
The elevator operator, Little Chief White Eagle, 71, a Yaqui Indian, and his wife, a Cherokee, were asleep in their sixth floor room.
"I tore the screen off the window," said Mrs. White Eagle, 51, "and we jumped three feet to a fire escape."
The whine of sirens mingled with the screams of burned and calls for help as firemen and ambulances rolled up at the first alarm. Division Chief H. M. Melvin put in a quick call for aerial ladder trucks as frightened faces appeared at upper windows of the 100-room brick structure.
One by one the big ladders swung to windows to take off the occupants. Other clambered down fire scapes and a few jumped into nets. Most of them were suffering from the intense heat and heavy smoke.
The blaze was quelled an hour after it started.
The blaze was the third major fire of the night. A few hours earlier, a $400,000 blaze swept a two-story business building a few block away, on Broadway, gutting a clothing store, dress shop, jewelry store and restaurant.
One wing of the Bel Air Country Club was burne out in another fire shortly after midnight. President Frank Winnie estimated the loss, chiefly to the kitchen and banquet room, at $200,000. Six employes escaped.
ALVIN BUTTS, 38, an upholsterer who lived in Room 311, next to the one in which the St. George Hotel fire started, said he was awakened by a woman screaming.
"My room was hazy with smoke," he said. "I ran to the window and saw flames coming out of the window of the room next door."
"I pulled on my pants and shoes and then thought I was crazy to take time to dress. I went into the hall, which was very smoky and dark. I got outside OK. There was a lot of yelling and people were running everywhere.
"The firemen got there fast and I told them where the flames were coming from. I also ran along the sidewalk, hollering at people to stay calm and not jump."
ARTHER M. MASSEY, 56, an electrician, was met by smoke and flames when he opened the door of his sixth floor room. Cut off from escape by the hall, he yelled out the window, he said. He saw a man in an adjoining room put a leg over the sill and thought he might jump."
"When I saw the firemen back a big truck up below and swing an extension ladder up, I was mighty thankful," he said. "It was getting mighty hot and smoky in my room. As soon as the ladder hit thesill, I started down it. Didn't even wait for the firemen, who was on his way up. We passed each other."
"My back and head were stung by falling sparks as I climbed down. All I had on were my pants and shoes."

Long Beach Press-Telegram California 1952-03-25