Hillsboro, MO Nursing Home Fire, Oct 1952


Faulty Wiring Believed Cause Of 3-Hour Blaze

Hillsboro, Mo. (UP) -- Fire whipped through an "old folks" home, killing at least 18 elderly persons, injuring several more and routing about 80, authorities said today.
The victims, all believed to be more than 60 years old and some older than 90, were trapped in upper floors of the three-story frame Cedar Grove Nursing Home.
All were enfeebled or bedridden, and intense heat from the blaze prevented rescuers from reaching them, Fire Chief DICK KING said.
KING said the fire had nearly a 30-minute start on firemen. It broke out about 5:45 p. m. Friday, he said, when wiring believed to be faulty apparently shorted in a men's bathroom on the first floor of an annex.
The interior was a mass of flames, KING said, when the first fire fighting unit arrived about 6:10.
The oldest victim to be identified was MRS. JANE PHILIPS, 95, of Desloge, Mo. Two bodies had not been identified. Of the known dead, eight were men and eight were women.
There was no estimate of damage. An inquest was scheduled today.
Most of the survivors fled down stairs and out the front door of the home, KING said. Several elderly persons were trapped on a second floor balcony and were rescued by ladder.
The injured were taken to the St. Louis County Hospital for examination. Attendants reported none of them were seriously injured. The survivors spent the night in the Shamrock Nursing Home at Kirkwood, Mo., following the medical checkup.
JAMES LEWSI, operator of the combination old persons home and general nursing home, said workmen had been installing a new heating system and thought that crossed wires touched off the blaze.
Firemen from Hillsboro, DeSoto, Goldman and Festus fought the blaze for three hours before bringing it under control. They said the interior was destroyed.
The survivors were dumb-struck as they huddled before the blazing structure and watched the flames destroy their few personal possessions.
One survivor, NORMAN CHARLES, 66, said he was asleep on the first floor when "all of a sudden I woke up and saw the flames."
"I put on my pants and shirt and walked out with one sock and one shoe on," he said.
About 100 persons were in the structure when the blaze broke out, officials said.

The Edwardsville Intelligencer Illinois 1952-11-01



Thirty-Six More Are Injured: Blaze Starts in Men's Wash Room

Hillsboro, Mo., Nov. 1 (AP) -- Eighteen elderly patients died last night as fire roared through a three-story nursing home here.
Most of the dead were trapped on the third floor of the stone structure. Other bodies were found a floor below.
A nurse first discovered the blaze about 5:45 p.m. as sparks and smoke came from a ceiling of the first floor between the main building and an annex.
The fire spread quickly up stairways and along corridors as attendants tried to get the 85 residents, several of them invalids, out of the building.
Hillsboro fire chief RICHARD KING said the blaze apparently began in a men's wash room on the first floor. He made no damage estimate on the main building, which he called a total loss.
At least 36 other residents were reported injured. They were taken in ambulances to hospitals in the St. Louis area. Those not hurt were moved to rest homes in the area.
MRS. MARY CARRON, 81, Crystal City, Mo., said she was sitting in a chair toward the rear of the second floor of the main building, saying her rosary, when she noticed dense smoke.
The next thing she knew someone was half-carrying, half-dragging her down stairs and out of the building.
JAMES LEWIS, operator of the home, said many of those dead apparently became confused in the smoke and died of suffocation.
Sixteen of the dead were found in the building. Two others were reported dead on arrival at St. Louis County Hospital.

The Chillicothe Constitution Tribune Missouri 1952-11-01