Germantown, MD Rest Home Fire, Dec 1954




Four elderly patients died, 18 others were under treatment and two nurses were injured early today when fire of undetermined origin destroyed a wing of the Maryland Rest Home in the center of Germantown in nearby Montgomery county.
Ten fire engines and nine ambulances were called from Gaithersburg, Hyattstown, Rockville, Upper Montgomery and Damascus. The rest home was completely cleared and the patients were taken to Washington Sanitarium or Suburban Hospital.
The dead are SALLY TURPIN, 96; MATILDA KOBLER, 84, and MRS. YATES DUKE, 73, all of Washington, and MRS. DORA WARD, 86, of Rockville.
At Washington Sanitarium in undetermined condition are MRS. ELIZABETH BUCKHAM, 86, Alexandria, Va., and MRS. FANNIE WHERLY, 80, Hyattsville.
At the same hospital are the nurses, MRS. MARGARET E. HEDRICK, who injured her back assisting patients out of the home, and MRS. ELSIE SYDER, who was suffering from smoke.
Under treatment, Montgomery County Police reported, were these other patients: MRS. CARRIE SMITH, 86, Bethesda; DR. ELIZABETH HAMPSON, 86, New York; MRS. ANNIE McPHEE, 99, Washington; MRS. HELEN RICHARD, 86, Mt. Rainier; MRS. CLARA MOHLER, 81, Washington; MRS. CATHERINE DEROSIA, 73, Arlington, Va.; JOHN DELAPLANE, 76, Olney; ALBERT WADE, 74, Germantown; MRS. LAURA HUSSEY, 75, Washington.
MRS. ANNIE MOYER, 79, Bethesda; Chaplain CHARLES V. ELLIS, 69, Annandale, Va.; MRS. KATE HUBBARD, 85, Washington; MRS. PHILA BILLMEYER, 86, Hyattsville; MRS. ANNIE LAMBORN, 83, Washington; MRS. IDA SLAVIN, 66, Bethesda; MRS. EDITH BROZEN, 64, Washington.
DR. HAMPSON, MR. DELAPLANE and MRS. BILLMEYER were later reported taken to Suburban Hospital for treatment for smoke exhaustion and exposure, the Associated Press reported. They were reported in fair condition.
Pvt. FRED PEARSON, 32, Montgomery county policeman who suffered smoke exhaustion in rescuing two women patients was also treated at Suburban Hospital.
MRS. LAWANA DICKINSON, operator of the home, said she and MRS. HEDRICK attempted to put out the flames with hand extinguishers after the alarm had been turned in.
MRS. DICKINSON said eight of the patients were bedfast and had to be carried from the building in the sub-freezing temperatures. One of them already was suffering from pneumonia. They were taken to a nearby service building until they could be removed to hospitals.
"I never saw such thick smoke," the stricken policeman, PEARSON, said.
He said he grabbed a gas mask and rushed into the building to a room above the center of the fire. He carried DR. HAMPSON out and then MRS. BILLMEYER.
"The next thing I knew I was lying on the ground and a fireman was on my back giving me artificial respiration," PEARSON related after being treated in the hospital.
Nine policemen took part in the rescue operations, aided by rescue squads from Kensington, Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Damascus.
MRS. WARD, one of the dead, was a lifelong resident of the Rockville area. The widow of William E. Ward, a farmer, who died in 1933, she had been at the rest home for 2 1/2 months. She was the daughter of the late William A. Bogley.
The dead were all occupants of three rooms on the ground floor of the three-story frame structure. These rooms connected with an enclosed rear porch, where the fire apparently started. Firemen said they believed it was caused by the explosion of bottled gas in a small stove used for heating purposes on the porch.
However, Montgomery police said the fire started either from the stove or from a short circuit.
The alarm was sounded about 3:30 a.m. and townspeople rushed to the scene to help the elderly patients outside the building, which was filled with smoke. MRS. HEDRICK reported the fire.
The firemen, using booster streams since there was no water available, quickly got the fire under control but were hampered by the bitter cold and some intermittent snowfall. It was reported bodies of the victims were found covered with snow flakes.
Rescue workers unsuccessfully tried artificial respiration. The bodies were removed to the Gartner funeral home in Gaithersburg, which is nearby.
Hyattstown sent two engines and an ambulance. All of the ambulances at the scene were pressed into service to move the aged residents.
The building contains 12 to 15 rooms, with nurses quarters on the third floor. The fire was confined to the comparatively new wing and the damage is not expected to be large

The News Frederick Maryland 1954-12-06

The following injured passed away one or two days after the fire.
MRS. PHILA BILLMEYER, 90 passed away, about 10 p.m. at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda.
DR. ELIZABETH HAMPSON, 87, died at Suburgan Hospital, in Bethesda of exposure to smoke fumes.
ANNE LAMBORN, 83, died at Washington Sanitarium in nearby Takoma Park.

From The News Frederick Maryland 1954-12-08