Chicago, IL Nursing Home Fire, Jan 1976


Chicago (AP) -- "I feel sad so many people were injured and there was nothing I could do to help them," said a priest after a fire in a nursing home killed 13 residents and injured at least 30 others. The blaze broke out as he was saying Mass in the home's chapel.
The Rev. William Pollard said the fire alarm rang as he finished celebrating Mass on the top floor at the Wincrest Nursing and Rest Home. He left the chapel and found the hallway filled with smoke.
"Many residents were in wheel chairs and couldn't
get down. Smoke blocked the corridors," said Father Pollard. He said he tried to put out the fire himself until the smoke became too heavy.
Fire Commissioner Robert Quinn said the blaze started in a room near the chapel and spread into the adjacent hallway. The area near the chapel "is where most of the injuries and dead came from," he said.
The cause of the blaze was not determined immediately. Fire officials estimated damage at $6,000, most of it due to smoke and water.
Most of the injured, whose ages ranged from 65 to 82, were treated for smoke inhalation and not burns, spokesmen at three area hospitals said. One fireman suffered a heart attack inside the nursing home and was hospitalized.
"We didn't know who was breathing and who was not. We were just trying to keep the breathing ones breathing," said Thomas Allman, a policeman and one of the first to reach the floor.
"There were people lying all over the place."
One of the injured, MARY DIETRICH, a head nurse at the home, said it was hard to get the people out because there were so many wheel chairs.
A social worker said 83 persons were believed in the home which had a capacity of 88. About 40 residents stayed in the building after the blaze was out, a fire official said.
Edward F. King, assistant city health commissioner, said the brick building, built in 1952, was inspected Jan. 8 and found to be in good condition.
Building inspectors also found the structure sound in an inspection last September and said it was constructed from fire-resistant materials and had concrete reinforced floors, walls and roofs.
Mayor Richard J. Daley appointed a special panel to investigate the blaze which will "seek to determine whether there should be any additions to the city (fire) codes."

Daily Globe Ironwood Michigan 1976-01-31



Chicago -- (AP) -- A nurse's aid was charged today with arson and felony murder in connection with a North Side nursing home fire that claimed 15 lives and injured more than 30.
Cook County State's Atty. Bernard Carey announced that DENISE WATSON, 21, had been charged following two days of investigation.
MISS WATSON had worked less than three weeks at the Wincrest Manor Nursing and Rest Home when the fire broke out last Friday.
Authorities said she had been questioned but not charged in connection with several other mysterious fires in Chicago as well as in her home town of Shawneetown, Ill.
Shortly before the charges were announced, the 15th death from the fire was reported. LILLIAN C. PERRY, 85, died early today of smoke inhalation.
A few hours earlier, CLOTILDE TISBO, 94, also died of injuries suffered in the blaze.
Twenty-five persons -- all elderly residents of the home -- remained hospitalized, 11 in critical condition.
MISS WATSON was arrested as she left St. Francis Hospital in Evanston where she had been under treatment for smoke inhalation.
Police Supt. James Rochford described her as having "a bad history of pyromania and involvement in a series of arson situations."
Carey's office had been considering civil action to have MISS WATSON committed to a mental institution but withdrew petitions for such action shortly before announcing the criminal charges.
Despite the woman's arrest, Mayor Richard J. Daley said a special panel created to investigate the fire would continue its work.
Daley said the panel also has the responsibility to help prevent further nursing home fires and may propose changes in the existing city fire codes.

Freeport Journal-Standard Illinois 1976-02-03