Quebec, QB St. Charles Orphanage Fire Disaster, Dec 1927

Orphanage Ruins




(By Associated Press)
Quebec, Dec. 15 -- Thirty one young children, all girls are known to have lost their lives in the fire which destroyed the Hospice St. Charles orphanage last night. Eleven have been positively identified.
Twenty-five children remained unaccounted for but it was believed many of these were being cared for by relatives or friends who had not reported their safety.

Quebec, Dec. 15. -- Eighteen bodies had been recovered today from the fire-swept ruins of the Hospice St. Charles orphanage, with the probability that the death list would mount. The building burned late last night.
A check of the missing and injured led firemen to believe that at least 50 lost their lives. Firemen were unable to search the ruins, which were still smoldering this forenoon.
The bodies of 17 children and one woman recovered indicated they had died of suffocation rather than by fire.
Walls Collapse.
The walls of the ancient structure collapsed while the fire was at its height, stopping rescue work.
The staff of nuns of the Good Shepherd, who conducted the institution, and 371 children were in bed when the fire believed to have started in the basement broke out in a dormitory on the second floor. The fire was discovered by Sister ST. THERESE who noticed smoke in the corridor and roused the sleeping children and other occupants of the orphanage. Most of the children were quickly marched from the bulding.
A passerby who noticed smoke pouring from windows of the building turned in a general alarm and police, firemen and volunteers directed their efforts toward rescue work. Many children were carried down ladders and others jumped from windows into life nets.
Form Human Chain.
Early in the rescue work a human chain was formed stretching from the orphanage to a tobacco factory directly across the street. As scores of terrified children, many of them half conscious were removed from the burning building their screams mingling with the roar of the flames, they were lifted from one to another of those in the chain to the factory. There doctors and nurses hastily gathered to care for them.
Rescuers groped through blinding smoke and flames in their search for the children many making several trips into the building before the collapse of roofs and walls forced them to abandon their effors.
Many of those rescued were hurried to private houses and other institutions throughout the city for shelter.
Most of the children in the institution were from the city of Quebec and surrounding towns and their ages ranged from three to 16 years.
Die In Their Sleep.
So rapidly did the flames spread that despite every effort by the nuns, firemen, priests and citizens, little could be done to rescue the youngsters, many of whom were so overcome by sleep that they could hardly realize what was going on.
The morgue was a pitiful sight. The little bodies were all laid on slabs and frantic mothers were there in hundreds to try to identify them. Many stories of heroism were told. One fireman was reported to have rescued 15 children, making repeated trips up and down a ladder.
The fire, which presumably started from the explosion of a furnace, shot flames up a central flue, creating a draft and carrying the fire throughout the old building. Rescue work was stopped when the walls collapsed.
The frozen body of a girl of about eight years was found this forenoon on the third floor of the ruined wing of the building. This brings the total known dead to 18, 17 children and one adult.

The News Palladium Benton Harbor Michigan 1927-12-15