On 3/29/1953 the Littlefield Nursing Home predawn fire killed thirty-four patients and a nurse in Largo, Florida. The fire spread rapidly through the 185’ one-story wood-frame structure. Twenty-five residents were able to escape. “The fire started in an area of the kitchen and supply room.” “Littlefield’s Nursing Home was located in Pinellas County, Florida, approximately four miles south of the town of Largo, seven miles south of the city limits of Clearwater, and fifteen miles north of Saint Petersburg. Situated by the side of a lightly traveled road and amid grapefruit and orange groves…two 1-story buildings were the principal structures at the Home. The main building, where the fire originated and in which thirty-three deaths occurred, was 7,200 square feet in area. This building housed 45 elderly patients. When originally built it had been occupied as a fruit store… For twenty-odd years, however, the building had been used as a nursing home, and from time to time, as money permitted, additions had been made. Since no architect’s plans were made and no construction permits were required, and since most of the work had been done piecemeal by Mr. Littlefield, it was impossible to obtain accurate information on all phases of the interior layout of the building. However, it was stated by Mr. Littlefield that the north and east portions of the main building (where most of the lives were lost) had been added about three years before the fire and that framing and exterior siding were wood while the ceiling, as well as room and corridor partitions, were constructed of highly combustible fiberboard which he did not recognize as involving any particular fire hazard. Generous amounts of combustible fiberboard had also been used in older parts of the wholly combustible structure. A shallow concealed space formed by the combustible fiberboard ceiling and the wood roof extended over most of the building. Most of the patients’ rooms were bounded by an exterior wall and all such rooms were said to have had at least one outside window…Automatic detection or sprinkler systems were not installed, no attendant was assigned to stay awake to discover any fire that might start during the night, and the only semblance of fire protection at the Home consisted of three or four soda-acid extinguishers…Thirteen old men were housed in the 1,000 sq. ft. 1-story building located eleven feet south of the main building. This “men’s building,” also built about three years before the fire, was constructed of wood framing and exterior siding with fiberboard ceilings and interior wall finish. A middle-aged man and his invalid wife occupied the 1-story, 4-room cottage (wood framing and exterior siding, plasterboard walls, and ceilings) located six feet from the northeast corner of the main building. Three house trailers were parked in a row parallel to and approximately twenty feet north of the north wall of the main building. One was occupied by a maintenance man for the nursing home, another was by a nurse. The third was unoccupied… Before retiring for the night at 11:00 P.M., March 28, the Littlefields had checked the premises and found everything in order. No evidence of fire was apparent at 2:30 when Mrs. Littlefield got up briefly to quiet a patient. It was about 3:15 A.M. when a patient knocked on their door and told them the Home was on fire. Smoke was then spreading throughout the main building and when a light switch was operated it was found that all lights in the building were out of order (apparently put out of service by the fire). The supply room was found to be heavily charged with smoke, with flames extending up a wall from the 15-inch space between the rear of a deep freeze unit and a wooden wall. Since smoke and heat were so intense that the supply room could not be entered, Mr. Littlefield carried a 2½ gallon soda-acid extinguisher outside and discharged it into the supply room through a ventilating fan opening. A second extinguisher was obtained and discharged through a window broken by the heat, but, in the words of Mr. Littlefield, he soon “saw that it was folly” to attempt to control the fire with extinguishers, and went inside to see about getting the patients out. The Clearwater Fire Department had been telephoned at 3:36 A.M. by the proprietor of the nursing home across the street from the fire. The fire department arrived at the scene about 15 minutes later but, by then, both the main building and the adjacent men’s building were a mass of flames and the fire was extending to the cottage and trailers…The fire had been narrowed to two possibilities (1) set by some patient who may have had pyromaniacal tendencies, or (2) a fault in the electric motor of the deep freeze unit where the fire appeared to have originated.”
On 3/29/1929 the 1st state law banning the public use of fireworks was enacted by the Legislature in Michigan making it a criminal misdemeanor for individuals to light a firecracker without a permit.
On 3/29/1921 a Chicago, Illinois fireworks explosion killed eight and injured seventy-five. Between two and three tons of explosives (fireworks) were stored in a warehouse in the rear of 1427-1429 South Halsted Street; “storing of explosives within the city limits is a violation of the law.”
On 3/29/1939 a Chicago, Illinois firefighter was fatally injured while fighting a fire at the Berger Brothers, Inc., a charcoal yard, at 1176 Cherry Street. “The fire started in a corrugated steel charcoal storage building, and firefighters were protecting an exposure building from the flames when a watchman for the company opened a hopper into the steel building. The rush of air ignited the charcoal dust in the building, and massive flames exploded out of the doors and windows. Nine firefighters, including the one who was fatally injured, and the watchman, were burned by the explosion and hospitalized at three area hospitals. He succumbed to his injuries at Alexian Brothers Hospital.”
On 3/29/1952 two Denver, Colorado firefighters died while fighting a three-story brick Miller Furniture Company warehouse fire at 1640 Larimer Street. “As firefighters fought the two-alarm blaze from inside and out, a sickening crack and rumble were heard, followed by the collapse of 2 of the floors. The entire center portion of the building then collapsed into the basement, burying several firefighters under tons of rubble, merchandise, and water. Immediate rescue efforts were launched, and the trapped men were removed. It was found that two firefighters had been killed in the collapse. They were venting the roof at the time of the collapse.”
On 3/29/1970 five City of Corry, Pennsylvania firefighters died while operating in a fire in a paint store. “Firefighters started an attack in the front door with one 1½-inch hoseline but had to retreat because of the intense heat; meanwhile other firefighters at the rear were laying hoselines, but the lines had not been charged. Then at 9:40 p.m. or about fifteen minutes, after the first companies arrived, an explosion blew out both ends of the building, injuring many firefighters at the front and rear of the building. In the rear alley, six firefighters were trapped, five were able to free themselves and escaped. One was killed beneath the falling wall. The men who did escape were rushed to a nearby hospital and treated for burns, fractures, and lacerations. At the front of the building, the toll was worse. A dozen or more firefighters received injuries and four young firefighters lost their lives when crushed by the fallen front wall. Firefighters and spectators worked hastily to free the trapped victims and get them to the hospital. Many spectators also had to be rushed to the hospital with cuts from flying glass. Eleven pieces of apparatus and an estimated two hundred firefighters were on the scene before the fire was extinguished.”
On 3/29/2004 a Clearwater, British Columbia, Canada firefighter “was killed and several others injured in an early morning blaze. The fire at the Chuckwagon Restaurant and Pub was spotted and reported by a person delivering newspapers in the area. The fire department received the call shortly after 4:00 a.m. Four firefighters entered the burning building but had to retreat, but two others became trapped inside. One of the trapped firefighters was able to call 911 on his cell phone to assist those on the outside in locating him. Once the fire was contained, a rescue team was sent and located the firefighter who had called 911. He was taken to Clearwater Hospital by ambulance and then transferred to Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops with what are believed to be non-life-threatening injuries. The second trapped firefighter was located in the basement, apparently having fallen through the floor. He was removed from the scene and transported to the hospital, where he was declared deceased.”
On 3/29/1922 the Basilica of Ste. Anne de Beaupre, a famous shrine, was destroyed by fire in Quebec.
On 3/29/1913 the Lebiana Hotel in Lake Charles, Louisiana was destroyed by fire at 1:00 a.m.
On 3/29/1909 the main building of Seton Hall College in South Orange, New Jersey burned, and the fire started in the locker room.
On 3/29/1907 the Memphis, Tennessee Magnolia Stove Works was destroyed by fire.
On 3/29/1907 twenty-two houses, ten stores, and two churches burned in Newberry, South Carolina which started in the three-story frame building on Main Street occupied by the furniture store.
On 3/29/1901 the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia was destroyed by fire.
On 3/29/1951 the “Mad Bomber” struck in New York exploding a homemade device at Grand Central Station.