Kingstree, SC Hospital Fire, Nov 1938


Flames Sweep Hospital as 20 Patients Safely Removed

A disastrous fire, estimated unofficially as causing damage of $15,000, swept the Kelley Sanitorium here early Sunday morning and was subdued after several hours of hard fighting by the local fire department, assisted by the Lake City fire department.

The 20 patients in the hospital were moved to safety from the smoke-filled rooms. Four white patients were taken by ambulance to the Lake City hospital, others being cared for in homes in the neighborhood until Sunday morning when they were taken to their respective homes. The majority of the patients were convalescent and were preparing to be dismissed from the hospital Sunday.

Of those taken to the Lake City hospital, MRS. H.H. HOOD of St. Stephens; MRS. A.B. DRIGGERS of Kingstree and MRS. HERBERT BAKER of Turbeville, were said to be no worse for the experience, being in convalescent state following surgery.

MRS. W.A. COKER of Cades, who has been quite ill at the hospital here, was reported in serious condition still.

The fire is thought to have started in the basement, either around the furnace or chimney. It was first discovered about two o’clock when nurses on night duty noticed smoke pouring between walls and floors. The main building of three stories, housing the hospital on two floors and nurses quarters on the third floor suffered damage on first and second floors from water and smoke; the nurses being completely burned out with few of their possessions saved.

The two-story wing containing the kitchen and dining room on the first floor and x-ray room, operating room and service rooms on second floor were completely burned out. The x-ray equipment, all surgical equipment, including instruments, sterilizer and operating room and complete new refrigeration, installed during the past summer were a total loss.

No damage was done to the Negro hospital, a one-story building adjoining the rear of the hospital, except by the moving of furniture and equipment to another building. The Negro patients in this hospital were taken across the street to the the telephone building and housed there. Water and smoke in the consulting and examining office of DR. E.T. KELLEY and DR. J.W. VARNER added to the damage done by having to break into and move the equipment from these offices.

The Kelley Sanatorium was the largest and most completely equipped hospital in this section of the state between Florence and Charleston. Duke funds had in recent months been obtained to care for patients in a ward which was competed as an addition to the hospital in the late spring.

DR. E.T. KELLEY returned to Kingstree Monday morning after being in attendance at the convention of the Southern Surgical Association in Oklahoma City, Okla., and visiting the Mayo Clinic at Rochester, Minn., for the past two weeks. Doctor Kelley and Dr. J.W. VARNER announced this week that the office building would be renovated and remodeled as quickly as possible and fitted up for x-ray and diagnostic work. This is expected to be completed and ready for the office to be opened next week. In the meantime, Dr. Kelley is continuing his work as surgeon at the Lake City hospital, and patients from here were received at the Lake City hospital this week.

The County Record
December 1, 1938
page 1