Collinwood school fire
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The Collinwood school fire (also known as the Lake View School fire) of Ash Wednesday, March 4, 1908, was one of the deadliest disasters of its type in the United States. The conflagration in Collinwood, Ohio (a community that has since been absorbed into the city of Cleveland), resulted in the deaths of 172 students, two teachers and a rescuer.
The Lake View School was built with load-bearing masonry outer walls, but much of the four story building's floor structure system used wooden joists. A wooden joist caught fire when it was overheated by a steam pipe. The building’s main staircase extended from the front doors of the building, up to the third floor, and had no fire doors. The stairwell acted like a chimney, helping to spread the fire quickly. Oiled wooden hall and classroom floors also fueled the fire.
Flames quickly blocked escape routes, and many students died pressed against doors that were locked or opened inward. Deputy State Fire Marshal Nathan Flegenbaum inspected the ruins the next day and "declared positively" that the doors of the schoolhouse opened toward the inside and that the rear doors were locked when the children reached them. The flammable construction gave only minutes for evacuation. Though one fire escape was accessible at the rear of the building, not all the children found their way to the exit. Panic led to a crush of a large number of students in a stairwell as students seeking escape rushed up the stairs while students above tried to descend. Most of the victims of the fire died here. Other students died of smoke inhalation or were burned to death. Some children died jumping from second- and third-story windows. Community members watched unable to help as victims trapped in the building were burned beyond recognition.
Those killed in the fire, such as 19 people who could not be individually identified, as well as those students whose parents could not afford a burial, were buried in a mass grave in Cleveland's Lake View Cemetery, most on the Monday following the tragedy. Additionally, several families who lost their children in the fire chose to bury their children's remains adjacent to the Collinwood victims.
Following the fire, the remains of the Lake View School were demolished and a memorial garden planned for the site. A new school—Collinwood Memorial Elementary School—was built adjacent to the disaster site, and incorporated many features that had been lacking in the previous building. Unlike the building involved in the disaster, the new school incorporated fire-safe stairwells and a central alarm system, and was built of steel framing and other fire-safe materials. Collinwood Memorial Elementary was closed in the 1970s and sat vacant until it was razed in 2004. A third school, simply called Memorial Elementary, was opened in 2005 on the same site with the original memorial to the victims preserved.
In the aftermath of the catastrophic Iroquois Theatre Fire in Chicago, 1903, a national drive was instigated to upgrade safe egress from buildings. Official regulations required that doors now open from the inside and swing outward, thereby facilitating public exit. The installation of what were called "panic bar" latches was mandated for doors in schools. The final casualty of the fire was the independence of the Collinwood community itself. Unable to sufficiently guarantee fire safety resources for its residents, voters approved an annexation of Collinwood into Cleveland within two years of the fire.
- "Hunt for Guilty in Ohio Holocaust". Chicago Tribune. March 5, 1908. p. 1. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
- "165 Children Perish in Fire". New York Times. Archived from the original on 5 March 1908. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
- "Film of the fire and the burial". Provided by the Library of Congress and the Cleveland Public Library. Retrieved 2009-02-06.
- Bellamy, John Stark II (1997). Maniac in the Bushes: More Tales of Cleveland Woe. Cleveland, OH: Gray & Company, Publishers. ISBN 978-1-886228-19-1
- Jablonski, Ray. "New State Marker Honors Lakeview Fire Victims." Sun News. May 22, 2003.
- Jablonski, Ray. "School could be razed for homes." Sun News. October 28, 1999.
- Jablonski, Ray. "Reaction to proposal is mixed." Sun News. October 28, 1999.
- Jablonski, Ray. "Tragic past leads to present lessons." Sun News. October 18, 2001.
- Encyclopedia of Cleveland entry: Collinwood School Fire
- Dead Ohio Collinwood School Fire
- Collinwood Fire Memorial Sculpture, Lakeview Cemetery
- Jablonski, Ray. "The neighborhood never forgets." Sun News. October 8, 1998 - Sun Newspaper’s 90th anniversary coverage
- Dissell, Rachel. "Collinwood school fire: 100 years later, an angel still kneels over the children." Cleveland Plain Dealer. March 2, 2008. Updated October 17, 2011. - Cleveland Plain Dealer's 100th anniversary coverage
- New Memorial School built on the premises of Lakeview/ Old Memorial School.
- Collingwood School Memorial at Findagrave
- Ash Wednesday at Making Light