The Norman Transcript

Crime/Courts

March 26, 2014

Grave for fire victims found

(Continued)

NORMAN —

A fund at the hospital already has been set up for those who would like to donate money for the memorial. Gross said they welcome any ideas of what type of monument should be set up and what it should say.

If any living relatives are contacted, Gross said they will bring them in and discuss the memorial. Donations can be sent to Griffin Memorial Hospital, P.O. Box 151, Norman, OK 73070. The memo should note that it is for the fire memorial.

 

History of the fire: The fire is the largest fatality fire in Oklahoma history, Deputy Fire Chief Jim Bailey said. The Oklahoma State Hospital has since been renamed Griffin Memorial Hospital.

Archives from The Norman Transcript, which was The Daily Transcript at the time, tell the story of the fatal fire that occurred at 3:35 a.m. April 13, 1918. The fire was first discovered by the night watchman in the linen room of Ward 14, which was near the center of the building.

Ward 10, which stood directly west of the building that caught fire, seemed doomed and staff began immediately evacuating patients. All 80 patients in that ward were accounted for, archives state.

“Many of these patients were violent and in the general excitement became more so and fought the attendants and officials viciously as they were being taken from the building,” the article states.

The fire then spread to a building containing Wards 13 and 16. All 80 patients were evacuated and safely removed, as well.

Defective wiring was thought to have been the cause of the fire, but there were no electric lights installed in the linen closest in which the fire was supposed to have originated, Gross said. No cause was ever determined.

Bailey said 39 people lost their lives in Ward 14 and one in Ward 15. According to newspaper accounts, only two victims were identified and laid to rest separately. The 38 unidentified victims were each placed in their own coffins and “given every kindly consideration possible,” archives state.

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