Missoula, MT Florence Hotel Fire, Sep 1936

Missoula MT Florence Hotel.jpg Missoula MT Florence Hotel Lobby.jpg Missoula MT Florence Hotel 1926.jpg




Missoula, Sept. 24. -- (AP) -- Crumbling, smoking walls and blackened piles of brick are all that remain of the Florence hotel block as weary firemen struggle to speed mopup work on the blaze which early this morning destroyed the block with loss estimated ranging as high as $400,000.
The building, in the heart of the business district, housed Missoula's biggest hostelry and a half score of business places. One hundred seventy-five guests of the hotel, including the University of Minnesota's football squad of 43 men, fled from the building shortly before dawn, some scantily clad, and all escaped injury.
Dense clouds of smoke continue to pour out over the city from smouldering heaps of debris in the center of the building while the firemen, working the spray of water from high pressure hose lines, pull down the sections of walls left standing.

All Okeh.
Head Coach BERNARD (BERNIE) HIERMAN of the Minnesota grid team rubbing his smoke reddened eyes, grinned broadly after checking and rechecking his squad to make sure that every player, trainer and assistant was uninjured.
Some of the boys lost their personal belongings and a few have tender feet from running around on the pavement but they are all safe, "and that's all that matters to me," said the coach as he superintended the transfer of the squad to the special Milwaukee train which is carrying the team to Seattle for Saturday's game with the University of Washington.
Practice this afternoon on Montana university field was held as scheduled.
Origin of the blaze, which started in the basement of a drug establishment in the hotel was not determined today.
Some owners of business firms destroyed by the fire are not available, but associates placed the following estimates on losses:
Florence Hotel, $275,000.
Public drug, $25,000.
Garden City Floral, $20,000.
Rochester Brokerage, $2,000.
REEDS Millinery store, $5,000.
Florence Hotel Beauty parlor, $2,600.
KOHN Jewelry, $20,000.
Corner Cigar store, $5,000.
The Rochester Brokerage set up quarters in a building half a block from the scene within four hours after it was routed from the Florence building. All of the records were intact and many of the fixtures were saved. Contents of the other business places, however, were practically wiped out, some of them with little or no insurance.

Second Fire.
This afternoon firemen battled a blaze which broke out on the roof of the D & K block at the rear of the hotel, which was started when burning material from the eaves of the later structure broke loose and fell. The flames were quickly put under control.
Increasing a task already huge, a gas main leading into the cellar of the hotel caught fire. Working swiftly, employes of the gas company here and firemen capped up the flames.
Firemen said this morning that the origin of the fire was not determined although they expressed the belief that possibly chemicals in the basement of the drug store were responsible.
Called by JOHN CURLEY, watchman at the hotel, the night clerk and bell boys speedily made a round of the rooms to get guests from the building. Meanwhile firemen were notified and began the fight against the flames in the drug store basement, using a downstairs hallway as a line of defense.

Driven Out.
They were quickly driven from that point, they said, by the flames which burned with such intensity as to make it impossible for them to stay. The spread of the fire was swift, they said, and soon the entire section of the downtown's business block was filled with flames.
Hundreds of spectators stood along the fireline set up by county, city and highway patrol officers who assisted in policing the burning area.

The Helena Independent Montana 1936-09-25