1936 - WESTFIELD HOTEL FIRE RESULTS IN 7 DEATHS. VAN DEUSEN INN DESTROYED BY BLAZE, CAUSE OF WHICH IS NOW UNDER INVESTIGATION BY STATE AUTHORITIES - IN ADDITION TO KNOWN DEAD, ANOTHER IS CRITICALLY BURNED.
Westfield, Mass., Jan. 6. - (AP) - The death toll of the fire that destroyed the Van Deusen inn last night was definitely set at seven this morning, with no known missing and one person in critical condition in Noble hospital.
An investigation of the fire was begun for the state on orders of State Fire Marshal STEPHEN C. HARRITY, who sent word later in the morning that he would come here immediately, to take personal charge. The investigation was begun by Chief Inspector GEORGE O. MANSFIELD, assisted by Lieut. W. J. PUZZO of the state police, attached to the fire marshal's office.
The revised death list is:
MISS M. GRACE FICKETT, member of the teaching staff of the Westfield State Teachers college.
MRS. MINNIE C. JANES, 64, widow of Dr. George C. Janes.
HENRY VAN DEUSEN, 18, son of Spencer Van Deusen, owner of the inn.
MISS NATALIE JONES, matron of the inn.
GEORGE ALEXANDER, 69, insurance man, father of Mrs. Spencer Van Deusen.
MISS BESSIE MALONE.
SPENCER VAN DEUSEN, 45, is on the danger list in the hospital, where six other persons also were taken for treatment of burns which were not considered serious.
It was established that MRS. AMELIA CHAMBERLAIN had not been a guest at the inn. She was among those at first reported missing. She makes her home in New York city. Investigation also discredited a report that a man, unidentified, had been trapped in the third floor and killed.
Firemen recovered the bodies of MRS. JANES and MISS JONES side by side on the second floor corridor where they apparently had been groping toward the front fire escape, MISS JONES, matron of the inn, still clutched under one arm the inn cash box.
The body of HENRY VAN DEUSEN, son of the proprietor, was found in a front room on the first floor only a short distance from the door. He had, it is believed, turned back in an effort to rescue his grandfather, MR. ALEXANDER.
MR. ALEXANDER'S body was taken from the front end of the third floor corridor within a matter of inches of a window leading to a fire escape.
Hampered by the precarious condition of the thin exterior brick walls, firemen made slow headway in their quest for bodies. The great speed with which the flames swept through the building was indicated by the wreckage. Although an imposing appearing structure, the inn, erected in 1911, was little more than a shell of single course bricks imposed upon flimsy fabricated walls, according to Deputy Fire Chief W. W. CLARK. He said there was not a fire stop in the entire building and that fire officials had long regarded the building as a potential fire menace.
Early in the morning firemen were temporarily withdrawn from searching the wreckage to allow the pulling down of walls that had begun to bulge dangerously.
North Adams Transcript
North Adams, Massachusetts
January 6, 1936
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