Portland, ME House Fire, Dec 1963

Six Children Perish in Fire

PORTLAND (AP) – Five little girls and a boy perished early today when fire raced through their duplex home near downtown Portland.
WILLIAM F. HARRIGAN said the fire started around midnight when he spilled oil while trying to light a space heater.
HARRIGAN and his wife, LEONA, were on the first floor. Their seven children and three state wards who lived with the family were asleep on the second floor of the wood frame house.
The 40-year-old railroad employee and his wife succeeded in helping three of their children out of the house before they were forced to flee the smoke and flames. A fourth child made her own way to safety.
But three daughters and the three state wards died in the flaming house. A medical examiner said that all six suffocated.
The survivors were held overnight for observation at Maine Medical Center. Most of them suffered smoke inhalation but doctors said none was in serious condition.
The fire was in Gilman Place only yards from the medical center.
The HARRIGANS' daughter BEVERLY, 9, jumped from a second-floor window to an adjacent hillside and then caught her 8-month-old brother, JOHN, whom the parents dropped from a window.
Another boy, EDWARD, 3, was also dropped to safety. Then HARRIGAN jumped to the ground telling his wife: “I'll jump first and you throw the children to me.”
But MRS. LEONA HARRIGAN couldn't reach the other children and had to jump herself.
GENEVIEVE, 8, made her way out alone.
Dead were three HARRIGAN girls, HEIDI, 2, MARY ANN, 4, and HOLLY CAROL, 6. The three state wards who died were THOMAS MALEY, 6, TAMI MALEY, 4, and RAMONA MALEY, 7.
Fire fighters recovered the bodies.
Later at the hospital tears streamed down HARRIGAN'S soot-blackened face as he said: “The whole thing happened so fast it was unbelievable.”
HARRIGAN said that when the oil flared up, he tried to smother the flames with his coat.
He said he pulled the flaming stove to a window but couldn't throw it out. He tried to call for help but the telephone line was dead.
As MRS. HARRIGAN ran upstairs, her husband raced to the other half of the duplex, broke in the door and telephoned for help. Then he ran back to help his wife.

The Portsmouth Herald New Hampshire 1963-12-16