San Francisco, CA Church Fire Kills Six, May 1964


San Francisco (AP) -- Six Samoans presenting a fire dance at a church party died Saturday night in a blaze apparently touched off by their flaming torches. More than 60 spectators were injured.
Panic spread among 200 present at the performance given by the Samoan Benevolent Catholic Society. Flames spread up a curtain near a stage in the parish hall adjoining All Hallow's Church in the Bayview district.

Eyewitnesses said spectators fought to get out of the building as flames spread across rafters.
At least 60 were taken to one hospital and an undetermined number to three other hospitals.
The fire apparently broke out as a dancer tried to light a sword wrapped in cotton and doused in gasoline for the traditional fire dance.

A spectator said there was an explosion as the dancer tried to light the sword, and instantly the "whole building was ablaze."
Firemen said a stage curtain near the dancer blazed up and a man attempted to put out the flames with a hand fire extinguisher.
Witnesses said the blaze seemed to follow the extinguisher stream up the curtain and fanned out over the crowd.
Firemen called it a "horrible massacre" and said the street in front of the building was smeared with blood.

Independent Press-Telegram Long Beach California 1964-05-24