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Steilacoom, WA Insane Asylum Fire, Mar 1947

Western Washington Insane Hospital.JPG Western Washington Insane Hospital 2.jpg

ASYLUM FIRE TAKES 1 LIFE.

3-STORY WING RAZED BY FLAMES.

Steilacoom, Wash., March 25 (UP) -- One man burned to death and two others were injured here today when a $900,000 fire gutted a three-story brick wing of the Western State Hospital for the insane but 230 additional inmates were removed to safety.
The body of BATISTE BARRA, 38, recently committed from Seattle and held for removal to Edgard, La., was found in the third-floor ruins.
ROYAL GOBEL, 45-year-old plant utility man, suffered a broken leg when struck by flying bricks as walls of the wrecked building were torn down after the fire.
PAT BURKE, a Tacoma, Wash., fireman, suffered hand burns in the fire believed to have started in a third-floor clothes closet. Cause of the blaze was not determined.
Officials said five patients, none considered dangerous, escaped during the height of the fire but that two were brought back to the institution during the day.
There was no panic among the inmates as attendants removed 181 other patients from adjoining buildings as the flames threatened to spread to the structures.
W. N. Keller, institution director, said the wrecked building housed 231 "chronic and incurable patients," including 86 bed-ridden cases. The entire institution houses approximately 2,600 patients, Keller said.
Twelve fire trucks from nearby Tacoma, Wash., and other communities battled the flames, which at times leaped 300 feet into the air, for three hours before bringing them under control.
Keller said 48 buildings composed the installation, 27 of which were built 50 years ago.
He said the wrecked building, constructed in 1900, was "unsanitary and a fire-trap" and that the escape of the patients was nothing short of
"miraculous."

Nevada State Journal Reno 1947-03-26

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