9:45 - 10:00 AM - Press photography.
10:00 AM - Jury caucus - elect Tuchbreiter as jury foreman.
10:10 AM - Session convenes. Preliminary remarks by coroner.
Jury roll call (Benson & Conlon absent)
10:15 AM - Jury sworn in. Coroner makes charge to jury. Jurors can question any witness at any time or recall any witness.
1st WITNESS: Joseph Maffiola family (mother). Son (10) died in fire.
2nd WITNESS: Wayne F. Wisz family (mother). Son (10) died in fire.
3rd WITNESS: Marilyn Reed (sic) family (father). Daughter (10) died in fire.
Let the record show that 87 kids and 3 nuns died in fire; two deaths later on so far.
4th WITNESS: Captain Harry Penzano (sic), 28th Police District (in charge). States that first alarm to police was at 2:55 PM on 12-1-58. He went to site of fire and put Plan II into effect. Called all squadrols to report. On job until all dead were removed. Called in arson squad. Assigned investigating officers to talk to janitor in hospital - janitor too badly hurt to make coherent statement.
5th WITNESS: Detective James Bowen, 28th Police District. He talked to proprietor of notions store next door to school, said she made first call to fire department. Her name is Zlowacky (sic), 919 N. Avers. She said man ran in her store, asked for a phone, she said she had no phone, man ran out of store, she ran outside, saw fire, ran back in to her phone in dwelling in rear of store and called fire department Bowen went to hospital to see Raymond, the janitor. Took his oral statement, too hurt to sign it.
Statement was to effect that janitor was in church, came outside at 2:45 PM, walked west toward corner, looked through alleyway between school and rectory, saw smoke at NE corner of school building, ran into school at NE corner to operate fire escape. Denies storage of flammable material under basement stairs.
This statement was paragraph 8 of report to C.O. of Police District - read to jury.
6th WITNESS: Lt. Stan Wojnicki, Fire Department, Officer Engine 85 - first in at fire. At 2:42 fire alarm office got a still alarm (phone) from school area. Engine 85 rolled. When he saw kids at windows he immediately called in by radio for a box alarm assignment. Engine went to a hydrant. Saw smoke at NW corner of N wing, stranger told him fire was in NE corner. Saw kids jumping from 2nd floor. Got ladders from engine, had civilians help carry and ladder building, civilians helped work on ladders. Took in a 1½" line from engine. Later on, killed this line and laid a 2½" line.... Rest of fire action by this company omitted.
7th WITNESS: Patrolman Robert Pidtro, Badge #9315. At 2:45 PM he was in Squadrol #263 on tour in this area. Noticed some smoke several blocks ahead and heard fire apparatus bells. Contacted Police Headquarters and asked for Plan II to operate. Saw kids on ladders and some jumping when he got to site. Helped load injured kids into private cars and squadrols as they responded. Took one load to hospital in his car. Took additional loads of victims later on.
8th WITNESS: Sgt. Drew Brown, arson squad, police. On evening of fire went to hospital and talked to victims. Next day, talked to kids who were in stairwell when fire started about 2:45 PM. No evidence yet of arson. Took photos of fire scene. Removed evidence, sent it to Crime Lab. Took statements from janitor and nuns. Positive evidence of flammable material under stairway in basement - rags, papers. Too statement of ? boys who were in boiler room when fire started. They are Joe Brocato (11) 6th grade, room 205 and Ronald Eddington (11) same room. Also Daniel O'Shea and Pat Machja were down in basement but they saw no fire and had gone back to classroom - they dumped their waste paper just ahead of Brocato and Eddington. B & E smelled something different while they were in boiler room - just then janitor ran through boiler room and yelled "Fire". Kids saw no fire under basement stairs because they entered boiler room from chapel and left the same way. Janitor now states that fire started on 1st floor stairwell - refuses to take lie test on advice of his counsel.
Read statement from Eddington - janitor first went through boiler room to chapel and then returned to boiler room and then went outside yelling "Call the fire department". Kids left through chapel, never entered stairwell. Drum found after fire in stairwell was empty, lid was affixed very tightly, contained only little water - dismiss it as factor.
Read statement from Joe Camerini (20) who was brother of assistant janitor. He is a pre-med University of Illinois student, part-time janitor. NE corner stairwell had cardboard cartons of refuse - neatly piled so as to not obstruct aisleway.
Read statement of J. Raymond, janitor (43) at hospital 12/1/58. He was outside, saw flame through 1st floor window. In state of shock.
Arson not ruled out yet until cause is definitely established. Cannot state HOW fire started. Can state WHERE it started.
9th WITNESS: Elmer Barkhaus - salesman. Was driving S on Avers at 2:40 PM - saw smoke in rear of school at NE corner door. Ran into notions store - lady said she had no phone - ran to dwelling next door, that lady had no phone but she ran next door and called fire department Barkhaus did not call fire department. As he was ringing doorbell of dwelling he could hear fire bells going in the school.
Recessed at 11:45 AM
Jury went to school site at 1:00 PM and stayed there until 3:00 PM. Went through entire building with fire department and coroner. Took 20 ft of 8MM movies.
Dismissed until Tuesday, December 11th at 9:30 AM.
9:30 - 10:00 AM - Jury caucus to talk over testimony, agree on next meeting.
l0:00 AM - Session convened. Roll call. (Conlon, Ainley absent). Benson sworn in.
10th WITNESS: Mrs. B. Glowacki - owner of adjacent notions store. Said man came in, stranger, asked if she had a phone. She said she didn't have a public phone. He said as he left "School is on fire". Mrs. G had one girl in school. She ran outside, saw flame out of transom over door at NE corner N wing. Ran back in store, went to dwelling in rear, dialed "0" and told operator she wanted the fire department Got them PDQ. Was told alarm was already in and help was on way. Went outside, saw kids in windows on 2nd floor., nun in Room 210 was yelling for help. Tried to open door at NE corner of N wing, it opened and heavy smoke rolled out, closed door. Now saw flame from window on stair landing at NE corner N wing. Entered school building at NW and saw her kids nun leading kids out of 1st floor. Went outside again and saw kids in Room 21? trying to break windows by throwing books through. Kids started jumping on N side of N wing. Helped carry 5-6 kids to side out of way. Got old topcoat and butter from home and tried to protect burned kids with it. Then she thought of her kid again, found her inside house, scared. Asked civilian why doesn't fire department come? Just then fire department came round the corner, saw two ladders go up and civilians work on ladders. Saw priests carrying kids. No ambulances here yet. Put some kids that were hurt inside her store. Set time at 2:38 PM when all this started.
Commissioner Quinn asked her about woman answering when she talked to fire department, said they had no women operators. She said it sounded like a woman, she was screaming and didn't pay too much attention. She gave fire department alarm operator no address, just name of church.
11th WITNESS: Joseph Casale, insurance agent (heavily bandaged arm). Got to school at 2:43 PM saw smoke at NE corner, kids panicking at windows on N side. Went into the school building at SW corner of N wing, went through 1st floor to E end of corridor, saw all rooms had been evacuated. (Fire was kept out of 1st floor by hollow metal door on rear stairway.) Left building at Iowa St exit. Went back to SW entrance of N wing, started up to 2nd floor, smoke got very heavy at top of stairs, broke out some windows (where he hurt his arm) retreated out side door. Met 1st fire truck on Iowa St, sent them to NE corner N wing. Loaded 4 kids into car and went to hospital. Witness asked jury to provide interconnecting rooms and more fire escapes for schools. Said regular fire drills were worthless because they always used the hallways as exit routes. Established time at 2:43 because he left home several blocks away at 2:40, was to pick up his kids at school.
12th WITNESS: Sister Mary St. Florence, principal of school. Ill, under medication. She was teaching as substitute in 3rd grade, S wing. Time about 2:30 to 2:45. Heard fire bell ring, lined her kids up and marched out normally from 1st fir. Went to Iowa St entrance to check why alarm rang, went in to stairs at SW corner S wing -met kids coming down, helped them out front door, cleared 3 rooms on 2nd floor S wing, went outside, saw kids at windows of S wing. ladder company came and got all kids out. Went to street, saw Avers ave N wing being laddered and rescues.
13th WITNESS: John (sic) Raymond, janitor. As Mr. R took stand his attorney, John Hogan, made a statement re the relationship with janitor - was as a friend not as a defense lawyer. Said Raymond was in the room, he was still hurt, had head injury and lacerations, can't remember clearly, has 7 kids, 5 of which are in this school, stutters and can't express himself lucidly, causes appearance of indecision. Unfortunate he has made conflicting statements but they're due to his condition.
Raymond took stand and made a liar out of his attorney - his speech was loud and clear, no indecision, no stutter, seemed in full possession of all faculties. His statements were clean cut and positive.
Employed here 13 years - does building. maintenance, runs boilers, does plumbing and electrical work. His helper has been sick for long time, has to use a part-time lad after school hours. Maintenance work includes building. housekeeping.
He said it was about 2:20 or 2:25 when he was returning to the school going W on Iowa St that he saw smoke at NE corner of N wing looking through alleyway between new school annex and rectory. Said he ran into rectory and yelled to housekeeper there to call fire department, then went to boiler room and told two kids there (who had just emptied waste baskets) to get out. Ran to 2nd floor via stairs in S wing, crossed over to N wing, ran into heavy smoke. Opened door to fire escape, opened adjacent door to Room 207, got kids and nun out onto fire escape, went outside and passed out, woke up in hospital.
Jury foreman asked witness if he had ever been under medical care, physical or mental, in past years. Witness said YES, Counsel for witness objects, coroner overruled objection. States attorney asks foreman what does he hope to accomplish by this question. Foreman says that obviously witness counsel was pulling wool over jury's eyes re speech impediment, etc. and that he had heard janitor had mental troubles. States attorney rules witness need not answer.
States attorney makes statement - says powers of coroners juries are very limited, can only inquire into the death, if they act outside these limitations they do so at own peril. Coroners attorney says rules of evidence don't apply here, doesn't like states attorney ruling. Witness counsel objects, for the record.
Sgt. Brown of Police arson squad starts to question witness. Asks him why he won't take lie detector test. Witness counsel objects to witness answering. Coroners attorney thinks question germane. Wants Brown to go ahead. Jury foreman asks for specific statement as to jury's powers.
States attorney says can only pass on cause of death - not any broad coverage of entire incident or delve into supporting data. Wants this on record. Said that states attorney is coroners true legal counsel, not his personal attorney. Advises coroner that he can proceed with this line of questioning only at his own peril. Coroner tells Brown to go ahead and ask questions.
Sgt. Brown says janitor wants to cooperate, why is he so reticent now? Witness counsel says he will cooperate at proper time, not ready now, he is ill, must protect legal rights of client. Brown asks "Did you see the fire?" A - "Saw smoke at NE corner N wing, saw that window there facing alleyway was red hot, ran to rectory and yelled to housekeeper to call fire department, did not actually see her place call, ran to alleyway entrance to boiler room, entered and chased two kids out. Door in back of boiler is metal door, it was open a few inches, saw red there, ran upstairs. Brown asks how did he establish time as 2:20 PM when this started to occur? Witness said he had been at two buildings on Hamlin ave in 800 block where church owned some property that was also used for school purposes to check oil burners there. Was on way back to Avers ave when he saw smoke. Brown tries to establish where witness was from 2:20 to 2:40 when others said fire started. 20 min. discrepancy.
Coroner states he will photostat Chap 31 of Ill. law re coroners powers and give each juror a copy tomorrow. Brown asks witness who uses back stairs from 1st to basement Says girls toilet is at bottom of stairs, only girls use stairway, metal door in basement stairwell goes into boiler room.
Juror Steinmetz takes over questioning. Asks witness when he was last in building prior to fire. A - 1:40 PM, left by boiler room door to alleyway to go to Hamlin ave. When was he last in stairwell where fire started? A - maybe a week or 9 days ago.
Witness is sure its not longer than that. Said stairwell was heated only by one radiator on 1st floor, no heat device in basement.
Steinmetz asks did he know newspapers and clothing were stored in this stairwell? A - didn't know it but there was a clothing drive going on at school. Drive started two weeks before fire. Clothes collected were to be placed in church basement and to be removed afternoon of fire to send away.
Witness said that boys taking waste paper to basement couldn't come down these rear stairs because door to boiler room was usually locked. It was open slightly this day because he saw red through it when he saw smoke. He has seen boys at times loitering in this stairway but he chases them out. He has never seen anyone smoking in this stairwell but found cigaret butt? there two months ago. Made no report of butts. Said there have been no fires there since he has been employed there.
Downs, fire department counsel, takes witness back over some steps & details. He wants to know about 20 min discrepancy, 2:20 vs 2:40.
Juror Klaftes1. - now asks how much waste paper is developed in a week and where is it stored. Witness says all paper is burned daily in incinerator in boiler room almost as soon as its brought down. No paper is ever stored or baled and sold by him.
DKA: Do you know or have an opinion as to how fire started? 1 - An opinion, it was started by a human hand - no electrical, no heat device in basement stairwell. (DKA opinion: Janitor is trying to establish arson, even if it was accidental to get off of bum housekeeping hook.)
Juror asks who cleans these rear stairs? A- janitors helper who wasn't there the day of the fire. Juror asks what happened to his kids. A - Had 5 in school, 2 at home, total 7. Three were in N wing (two got out, one jumped, injured) two were in S wing, ok.
Steinmetz asked if janitor supervised fire drills. A- No. Is he present at fire drills? A - Usually. When was last one? A - About one month ago, 3½ minutes time.
Downs, fire department counsel, asks why didn't he try to put fire out. A - It looked like it was too big, beyond extinguishers.
Meeting Recessed. 12:20 PM
Jury caucused immediately, asked coroner who was on for tomorrow, suggested names of people who jurors wanted to come and be questioned.
Next meeting, Friday, 10:00 AM, same place.
Juror Edward Fenner, secretary Chicago Truck Drivers & Chauffeurs Union #705, requested that he he excused as a juror because of the statement of the states attorney regarding proceeding further at our peril. He wants the states attorney ruling in writing or he will not serve further.
10:22 AM - Convene. Roll call. (Fenner absent) Conlon sworn in.
13th WITNESS (continued) J. Raymond, janitor. Juror asked were fire extinguishers used and where located? Anyone trained in their use? A- Extinguishers were serviced in July '58 by Kidde, 2 were replaced. Had no chance or occasion to use them a/c smoke prevented access to fire and rescue was paramount. Witness is not in police custody as of this date, .
Earl Downs, fire department counsel, questioned witness. Raymond said there was an iron gate at the N end of the alleyway at the foot of the fire escape, gate had no padlock and while always closed, could always be opened. He uses this gate every PM to go home. There is a burning pit slightly NE of this gate, in rear of rectory. Janitor never burned trash there, only ashes from boiler there. Neighbors sometimes burned trash there. Ashes from basement, incinerator in boiler room put in metal can and dumped in refuse pit outside. Doesn't remember wind direction December 1 (Downs said it was NW). Doesn't recall any rubbish being burned outside on fire day. Window facing E in basement stairwell has never been opened. Raymond has 2 janitors helpers to work over week ends - they sometimes burn trash. Every PM janitor checks NE entrance door for security. Not sure if it was unlocked at time of fire.
Juror asks who has responsibility of cleaning stairwell. Says Mother Sup. hires boys for weekend work. Wooden stair steps covered with asphalt tile. Uses liquid soap. 15 boys were sent to church basement to pack clothes onto truck for clothing drive end. He didn't see any clothing in basement stairwell. Says there was a small panic bar on door to outside in NE stairwell.
(DKA) Janitor says there were 4 fire extinguishers (2½ SA) on each floor and in basement Bottoms were 5 ft off floor, tops were 7 ft. Stated there were 2 operating controls on building fire alarm system, none in basement Buttons were 5 ft off floor. Both were near front stairways.
Jurors - Said there was no paint or rags in stairwell. Repeated rear door back of boilers was partly open, saw red through it. Has nothing to do with fire drills, Mother Sup. runs drills. Knows of no special assignments of anyone when drill is run. Church has 4 other properties on Hamlin. He's janitor for these also. (He's spread pretty thin to do a good job) Clubs and groups use church basement over week ends, they do their own cleanup and he sort of finishes the job. Works from 5:30 AM to sometimes 9:00 PM. Can't expect too high a level of housekeeping from him.
Church attorney says he'll get paid for not working because of attending sessions.
"Life" mag says basement had crowded barrels and baled paper. He says no.
Dr.S. quizzes - He says small roll of floor covering, like asphalt tile, less than 8 ft long and 30" wide (not tar paper) stored in stairwell. Used it to cover one floor in one class room, now used as table cover. Doesn't know if roll is flammable, doubts if it can ignite spontaneously. Janitor does minor electrical work like replace bulbs, does no wiring. Don't know when liquid soap last used, maybe couple of weeks. Uses a wax base sweeping compound. Don't know if its used on rear stairs.
He locates Room 207 - claims now that S door of it opened easily Repeats it wasn't locked, opened easily. Doesn't know if kids use fire escape on drills, thinks kids use stairways on all drills. Don't know name of nun in 207. Broke windows on W side of connecting corridor.
14th WITNESS: Mrs. L. Maloney, housekeeper at rectory. Was in kitchen making sauce when
janitor ran in and asked her to call fire department. As he ran out, she dialed "0" and got a
woman, gave her church name, then man came on wire and she repeated church name and
address. Estimates time between 2:30 and 2:40, no clock or wrist watch. On job
26 years here. Says no kid came to her to turn in alarm.
15th WITNESS: Frank Grimaldi (11), kid in Room 206 - mentioned only once in newspapers on 1st day, reason for subpoena.
DKA questions, smart looking kid, not flustered. Went to John in AM, heard funny sounding noise in boiler room, can't explain it. Went to John in early afternoon, smelled smoke. (Note John is in basement in S wing rear, John near NE stairwell is girls.) Ran upstairs to 2nd floor and told nun about smoke. Teacher was Miss Pearl Tristano, lay teacher. She told him to stay in 206 and she went to W end of 2nd floor corridor and pulled building fire alarm. Frank heard fire bells while in classroom 206 then. Room got smoky and kids were hanging out windows for air. Then janitor opened door to 206 and herded all kids in 206 and 207 down rear fire escape - no casualties here.
Dr. S. quizzes: He saw several kids in basement smoking on one occasion, repeats their conversation verbatim, 4 boys, reported them to nun. Never saw any kids smoking in NE stairwell. Traces route on chart of how boys take trash to boiler room, he did it last year. Says big boys sometimes hang around rear stairs (to girls John). Hasn't been there himself for over a month. Saw boxes of stuff in NE basement stairwell, says some of them are school supplies stored there by nun. Establishes that there was no door in corridor at SW corner of Room 207 where its 2 steps down to newer connecting corridor. Very good intelligent witness.
16th WITNESS: Ray Richardson, Assistant State Fire Marshall (Twomey, State Fire Marshall, sick)(cripple) On job 5½ years as Twomeys assistant. Says 27 Deputy State Fire Marshall downstate and 11 in Chicago area. See list of buildings they are supposed to check, hundreds of them, (DKA) Stated they have no authority to inspect anything inside Chicago. Never inspected this school. Asked why they can go into other towns in Ill and not into Chicago. Says that the law says they don't have to when the town has an adequate fire prevention code. Has no records with him.
State Fire Marshall's counsel starts to detail Ill law covering State Fire Marshall. Wants Chapter 55½ of Ill. Code on fire escapes brought up to date. After 15 minutes of legal jargon, jury foreman asks he be excused, testimony not relevant. Says witness is obviously not qualified or knows much about the job.
17th WITNESS: J. K. Wasson, Chicago deputy State Fire Marshall. Tries to patch up bad impression of State Fire Marshall office.
Says they are conducting their own investigation on this fire. Asked why they are
doing this inside Chicago and not inspecting inside Chicago. Non-committal answer.
Asked what State Fire Marshall does about antiquated fire alarm systems. Evasive answer.
(DKA) Asks that State Fire Marshall legal counsel furnish jury with a specific list of sections of
Ill code that State Fire Marshall thinks are out of date or need revision so jury can recommend
changes if they concur with list.
Recessed at 1:00 PM
Next meeting to be Monday, December 15 at 10:00 AM at Prudential.
Passes out copies of forms that Chicago Fire Department Fire Prevention Bureau inspectors use when inspecting schools. Also, passed out preliminary report of NFPA (National Fire Prevention Association) on fire.
10:24 AM - Roll call. (Fenner absent)
18th WITNESS: Mario Camerini, assistant janitor. Was working in church, went outside, saw smoke at NE corner of N wing, went to garage in rear of rectory, got out two 24-ft extension ladders, connected them up, raised them to west windows of Room 208, rescued 25-30 kids; helped pick up those who jumped, helped load them into ambulances. Establishes time when he first saw smoke as 2:40, did not turn in any alarm. Was not in school building at all this day of fire. Planned to burn waste paper in boiler room incinerator at 3:l5 PM after kids had left. Duties are mainly in church, only helps out in school because assistant janitor has been sick. Works from 12:30 to 6;00 PM. Didn't fight fire because kids were already at windows when he arrived. (9 died in Room 208) Said there 3 metal cans for waste paper, 2 in boiler room and one outside room. Under direction of Msgr. Cuzzins (sic) - 4 years here. Knows it was 2:40 because he looked at his watch.
19th WITNESS: Miss Pearl Tristano, lay teacher, Room 206, 5th grade. She sent 2 boys to boiler room with waste paper at 2:25 PM and they were back by 2:30 PM. As they entered, she smelled smoke, she ran to Miss Coughlin's room #207 and alerted her. Miss C ran to get mother superior who office is in S wing about middle of 2nd fir. (Mother Superior was on 1st substituting in 3rd grade.) Returned, she sent her kids down fire escape; Miss T sent hers down stairway in annex to S wing. She places this time at 2:35 to 2:40, in between. After her kids were outside, she re-entered and pulled building fire alarm on 1st floor near Room 105. As she led her kids down stairs, smoke was at head height in the S wing, it was hot and gray at first, then it turned suddenly black. Room 206 kids always have used this stairs for fire drill. Has never been told to use an alternate route for fire drill. Last drill was in Nov. All rooms send boys to basement about 2:30.
20th WITNESS: Chief Robert O'Brien, head Chicago fire department Fire Prevention Bureau. Was in Ciuinns office when 2nd alarm (2-11) came in; arrived at fire between 3:10 and 3:15; went up rear fire escape and saw 2 fire companies working in there, reported to Quinn for orders.
Has 70 Lieutenants now inspecting, plus 45 more now on schools only also 20 fire companies (5 men each) daily on inspection work. Totals 155 men. He states his men check windows adjacent to and under fire escapes and recommend WG there. Head of Bureau 2 years. Asked for comment on cause and recommendations - hesitant - says cause is still being investigated - says Quinn will do all recommending. Pressed for an answer, he says he would recommend enclosing stairs, more exits, automatic fire alarm. Says he didn't know building was overcrowded. Passes around last inspection report of this school, dated 10-7-58 (I copied it) which ends up "No apparent violations". Steinmetz questions accuracy of report a/c this last statement, (DKA) asks him re discrepancy between paragraphs about fire extinguishers on P.133 and 178 of fire prevention Code. He says they don't use 4000 square foot figure but use later par. which says use NFPA #10. Says nothing in code requires fire drills. Says that when his men find a violation, the engineers in his office check it and then steno sends out notice to school to fix in 5, 10, 15 days, gives them 30 days grace, then has men re-inspect. States, without qualification whatsoever, that this school was SAFE, Jury works him over on this and he finally says LEGALLY SAFE, i.e.. in line with code of 1905 applying when school was built. Would not comment on overcrowding - asked why his men never divide no. of pupils into square foot area of school (both figures are on his inspection form), says if inspector THINKS overcrowding exists, his Bur tells Ramsey, building commissioner, who then checks and determines. (Very poor witness)
Recess - lunch.
Afternoon session - 2:10 PM.
21st WITNESS: Commissioner Quinn, fire department. Reads statement thanking every agency that worked on fire. Reads letter from Captain in Fire Prevention Bureau (Captain lost daughter in fire) written after fire which says that he has been in school many times as a parent and keenly looked premises over, never saw any violations.
Was in office at 2:42 when advised by FA Office that still alarm was in, followed by box alarm at 2:44. Quinn and Fire Marshal Dailey went to fire in Bailey's car. He struck 2-11 alarm via radio as they loft City Hall. Struck 5-11 while he was still one mile away from fire.
Location of fire was by address on Iowa St. (Makes big issue of this, altho school was on corner of Iowa and Avers, and actual fire was on Avers.) Went to 2nd floor of S wing, smoky but smoke only at head level 6 ft off floor, area tenable. Ordered 2 companies to 2nd fir rear annex corridor to fight way into N wing. Went outside to N wing alley, saw ladders up at windows and "snorkel" operating - all rescue was done when he got here at N wing. Went up to 2nd fir of N wing via front stairs, driven back by heat and smoke, sent O'Brien to roof to ventilate and get heat out of 2nd fir. Finally made it into Room 212 with fire company, helped drag kids out dead, found Chief of a company in there that had fought his way in through window an ladders.
Says loss was definitely due to a lapse of time element. 2:42 first indication. Says definitely a delayed alarm. If he could have had 3 minutes sooner alarm, thinks he could have saved most kids. Very few persons know how to turn in alarms.
Still alarm brings one engine (5 men), one truck (6 men), one squad, one insurance patrol, one battalion chief. Box alarm brings 4 engines, 2 trucks, Engine carries hose and one 24 ft ladder & roof ladder. Truck company had 278 ft of ladders.
1949 code says must have alarm near entrance - not retroactive to this school. Wants code amended. Says telephone company has a responsibility for alarms also. Wants a phone on each floor of a school, labeled as fire phone. Says basic American concept is not to spend any $$ for fire prevention prevention is basic aim of his dept. Asked if it isn't possible to have a mandatory 2-11 response to school fires - states problem is not one of no. of fire companies, its in getting alarm quick enough. Says controversial tar paper is only ordinary building paper used between wood floor and asphalt tiles; however it gives off black toxic fumes when burned. Says 160 kids saved by firemen alone via laddering. Department has 86,000 alarms per year, 10,100 rubbish alarms so far in '58.
Says kids use fire alarms at schools to turn in false alarms - caught 21 kids recently took them to parents but can't do anything more. Coroners counsel says Ill. law won't make parents responsible for illegal acts of minor kids.
Says this building here for 48 years, says its SAFE like O'Brien said. Juror mentions that John Ahern (IIT) was on TV on Sunday December 7 and stated that he would never permit a kid of his to attend school in a fire trap like this school. Thinks Ahern is off base.
Says he has had 283,000 inspections made so far in '58.
Says only enforcing power he has is recommendations, then due process of law. Wants enclosed stairs - would OK this school if its stairs were enclosed even if it was grossly overcrowded. Has authority to close any building. if he finds life hazard exists - says he closed one 12 months ago for few days. Has issued pamphlet in Oct. '57 to schools that shows how to instruct in fire prevention at all grade levels. Says no extinguishers or VP was used on this fire.
22nd WITNESS: George Ramsey, Building Commissioner. Violations of code get bogged down in court, too many continuances by judges, especially in slum violations. Jurisdiction of his department ceases when corporation counsel takes over violations. If court discharges any case and condition still exists, this dept. will reactivate. Doesn't know how many violations are in court now. Says Fire Prevention Bureau sends 200 violations per week to him to work on. His dept checks these within a week, issues order to comply, gets 15 days time before owner comes to Compliance Board, then 30 days grace, then sent to corporation counsel to start suit.
Takes about 3 weeks to get from Fire Prevention Bureau to court decision. Coroner questions this -he says inspectors appear from 2 to 8 times in court on violations - could take 2-3 years.
Says city has power of injunctive relief to enforce violation compliance if people are within building that has violation, i.e. life safety is criterion.
Says jury's recommendations should go to Quinn or Ramsey, they will then take them on to Citizens Committee on Code changes (Ramsey is chairman of this committee).
Makes statement re article in newspaper re overcrowding - disavows entire article, says he never made such a statement, says this building IS and WAS SAFE.
(DKA) questions this. Reporters just don't make these things up, someone has to give them the dope. If he personally didn't make statement, someone who knew code did. Ramsey says cant apply square foot per person to this school or pre-1949 buildings. This building was built in 1910 under 1905 code which didn't have any square foot rule - therefore this building is SAFE. (Thinks he means legally safe, like O'Brien did). Can't tell how many violations a year he handles. Coroner says publicity spot light will bring changes in laws like it did for hotels and night clubs. Says exits in this building were covered by 1922 ordinance which at that time said building was adequate from exit standpoint for 1440 persons and there are only 1200 in it today so its safe, (DKA) states that if present code figure of 20 square feet per person is accepted present day good engineering, then adherence to an outdated code will ignore progress in fire technology and kids will still get killed - states that both of us KNOW building was overcrowded.