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Our Lady of the Angels (OLA) School Fire, December 1, 1958

From the History Channel's Wrath of God Series
Image of the DVD Wrath Of God - Hellfire from the History Channel
Color and B&W, 50 Minutes, fully narrated Copyright: 1996
Produced by: A&E Television Networks
Out of Print
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Description of the video "Hellfire"
From the History Channel's "Wrath of God" series comes a video showing the horror of fire. Each of the four fires described share a common thread - a large loss of life.
Great Chicago Fire
First is the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The popular story was that it was started by Mrs. O'Leary's cow by kicking over a lantern. Although the story was proved to be false, the resulting conflagration wasn't. When the embers finally died almost the entire city was destroyed - 5 buildings of house size or larger were left unburnt. Over 300 people died and 90,000 were left homeless.
Triange Shirtwaist Fire
May 25, 1911 saw the equally tragic Triangle Shirt Waist fire in New York City. The building was fireproof, unfortunately the contents weren't. Emergency exits were locked during working hours to keep union organizers out; there was a delayed notification to the fire department; the largest aerial ladder could only reach the 6th floor, 3 floors below the fire. 146 young girls died, 7 were never identified. Most burned to death, many died by jumping out the 9th floor windows.
Hartford Circus Fire
Next shown is the Ringley Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus tent fire that occurred in Hartford, CT in July, 1944. The tent had been waterproofed by coating it with a mixture of highly combustible materials - paraffin wax and gasoline. The origin of the fire is unknown. The fire spread with tremendous speed and despite heroic attempts by spectators and members of the circus (including Emmett Kelly), few in the tent survived, 168 died. As this was wartime, most of the victims were women and children.
Our Lady of the Angels School Fire
At 2:30 p.m. on December 1, 1958, students of Our Lady of the Angels Catholic School were anxiously waiting for the bell to signal the end of the school day. For many it was a sound they would never hear again. Once again, in a theme common to all of the fires discussed in this video, the origin of the fire remains a mystery. And once again there was a delay in notifying the fire department. When they were eventually notified, they were directed to the church rectory. The Chicago Fire Department responded and began to attack the fire from the rectory, the south side of the building, not realizing that the fire was in the school - the north side of the building. Nuns, realizing the severity of the fire, led the children in prayer. As was true of the Triangle fire the building was fireproof, but not the contents. Everything flammable burned - desks, flooors, curtains, and unfortunately the people who couldn't get out. The final death toll, even after 40 years is hard to believe - 3 Nuns and 92 children.