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Our Lady of the Angels (OLA) School Fire, December 1, 1958
OLA Fire Period News Articles
(These stories have been reproduced as accurately as possible from the original news reports, including original errors)
90 Die In School Fire (12/1/58)
74 Hurt, Blast Traps Scores (12/1/58)
Tough Chicago Police Weep At The Tragic, Tiny Bundles (12/1/58)
Tom Feared Sight Of Death's Mask (12/1/58)
Margaret Was a Little Girl Who Didn't Like to Be Sick (12/1/58)
Joe Wasn't Hurt, He Saw Only Horror (12/1/58)
Sobbing Nun Tells of Horror In School Fire (12/1/58)
Parish Families Seek Children (12/1/58)
Man, 74, Stricken Helping Children (12/1/58)
F.B.I. Ready to Assist Chicago Fire Inquire (12/1/58)
Panic Grips Classrooms; Confusion Increases Toll (12/1/58)
Everybody was Jumping (12/1/58)
List of Identified Dead In Chicago School Fire (12/1/58)
Fire Gong Tolled A Deadly Message (12/1/58)
Frantic Dad Tells Fire Rescue Role (12/1/58)
85 Youngsters Still Hospitalized; Blaze 3rd Worst In 100 Years (12/2/58)
Smoldering School Ruins Like A Cavern Of Death (12/2/58)
87 Children, 3 Nuns Die in School Fire (12/2/58)
Probers of Fire Ask: Why? (12/2/58)
Schoolboy Smoking Cigaret Might Have Touched Off Fire (12/2/58)
One Family's Story (12/2/58)
Throng Just Waits, Looks (12/2/58)
The Morgue (12/2/58)
School Fire Chicago's Worst in 55 Years (12/2/58)
“I'll Remember It to My Dying Day,” Says Fireman (12/2/58)
Chronology Shows Speed of Disaster (12/2/58)
Girl Recalls Burning Backs Of Classmates (12/2/58)
Chicago Presses Search for Clues to Fire At School (12/2/58)
'I Won't Give Up Hope,' Says Father (12/2/58)
Boy Who Jumped Tells of Tragedy (12/2/58)
Pope John Wires Condolences to Bereaved Kin (12/2/58)
Arson Squad to Probe Fire in School Last Year (12/2/58)
“It's Just Too Much,” Laments Archbishop (12/2/58)
Hospitals Work Around Clock to Relieve Injured (12/2/58)
Other School Tragedies (12/2/58)
Moscow Says School Fire No Accident (12/2/58)
Memories of Horror Rack School Janitor (12/2/58)
How Fireman Feels Carrying Out Victims (12/3/58)
Third Worst In Nation (12/3/58)
Priests Try Vainly To Comfort Bereaved Relatives And Parents (12/3/58)
Struggle to Save Fire Survivors Continues (12/3/58)
Gigantic IFs Jolt Probers Digging Into Fire Mystery (12/3/58)
Fire Leads to School Checkups (12/3/58)
Rites Held for Nuns Killed in School Fire (12/4/58)
10,000 Mourners at Funeral Of Three Nuns Killed in Fire (12/4/58)
Mass Offered for 28 Small Victims of Fire (12/5/58)
Fire Victim's Souls Commended to God (12/5/58)
91st Chicago Victim Of School Fire Dies (12/6/58)
500 Children Face Questioning In School Fire (12/6/58)
Bereaved Families Mourn in Chicago (12/7/58)
9-Year-Old Boy Dies, Raises Chicago School Fire Toll to 92 (12/8/58)
Boy Becomes 92d Victim of Chicago Fire (12/8/58)
School Fire Horror Probed (12/11/58)
Chicago School Afire Long Before 1st Alarm (12/11/58)
Terror, Torment Related by School Fire Victims (12/13/58)
Girl Fire Victim, 9, Wonders Why Cards Have Stopped Coming (12/14/58)
Fire. Thirty-Eight O Eight Iowa...The Alarm Was Desperate, the Tragedy Incredible! (12/15/58)
Nightmare in the News (12/15/58)
Disasters - The Chicago School Fire (12/15/58)
How Safe Are The Schools (12/15/58)
Fire Hazards Found At 2 City Schools
Two Schools To Be Closed As Fire Risks
Texas School Tragedy Of 294 Dead Recalled
$50,000? So What?
Erect Fireproof School Building (11/30/59)
City Cleared As Defendant In School Fire (7/19/60)
New School Open (9/60)
Considered prime suspect in Chicago blaze (1/16/1962)
Boy Admits Fire Fatal To 95 (1/16/62)
Judge Rips Lie Tester On Boy's Story Of Fire (1/16/1966)
Cicero Won't Let Police Talk to Youth (1/16/1962)
Lad Cleared in School Fire (3/13/62)
Memories stay forever - Our Lady of Angels fire survivor (11/83)
'Born fireman' wanted to be part of the action (6/1/2003)
74 Hurt, Blast Traps Scores
CHICAGO, Dec 1 - The death toll of the fire at Our Lady of the Angels parochial grammar school was fixed at 75 by Msgr. William McManus, superintendent of Catholic schools. He rushed to the scene from his office in the Loop.
Twenty-five children and one nun were reported killed in a flash fire that swept Our Lady of the Angels grammar school at 3808 Iowa st.
At least 74 children were burned or injured. The fire followed a mysterious explosion.
Firemen said the blast shook the school and other buildings in the block.
The blast and fire occurred at 2:42 p.m., a short time before school closing time.
The school has two stories and a basement - all used for classes.
The principal, Sister Mary St. Florence, was unaccounted for.
First of the dead to be identified were Sister Mary Clare Therese, teacher of the fifth grade in Room 212, and Margaret Kucan, 8, a pupil. The child is believed to live in the 3800 block of Chicago avenue.
The fire broke out on the second floor of the school.
Ambulances sped the burned and injured to hospitals all around the area.
Four children reportedly died after being taken to St. Anne's Hospital. In all, 40 children were admitted there.
The flash fire trapped many of the children.
Some were said to have jumped from the second-floor windows.
Other children were led out safely.
Fire Commissioner Quinn said firemen spotted the unconscious forms of children on the second floor.
It was not known immediately whether these children were dead or overcome.
Fifteen children were taken to Franklin Boulevard Hospital. There were 10 at Walther Memorial Hospital. Garfield Park Hospital took in nine children.
Bodies of 15 victims were taken to the County Morgue.
Frantic parents converged on the school and the hospitals as soon as they learned of the disaster.
Firemen and spectators had to quiet many of them.
Father Gorman, Fire Department chaplain, said 25 to 30 pupils were carried out of the burning building on stretchers.
A 5-11 alarm brought fire apparatus to the scene from all sections of the city.
The neighborhood of the Catholic Parochial school is heavily populated.
The fire sent up clouds of black smoke which blanketed the neighborhood. Smoke could be seen a mile away.
Gary Wassinger, 7, a pupil, said he saw smoke seeping under his classroom door on the second floor at 2:30 p.m.
This was shortly before classes were to be dismissed.
Gary said:
“About 10 second later, the fire gong rang. We all heard the bell and we know this was for real.
“Our nun opened the door and everybody ran out. A couple of boys fell while we were running out and I think they broke their legs.
“My buddy, Michael Giacomino - he's 13 - was in the class room with me. He said he heard a lot of kids screaming and crying and yelling for their brothers and sisters.”
Father Gorman said the children carried out on stretchers appeared to be dead “or near dead.”
Learning of the magnitude of the disaster, Mayor Daley sped to the school.
He joined Commissioner Quinn at the scene.
Some residents of the neighborhood, as well as children who got out unharmed, said they saw boys and girls leaping from the windows of the second floor.
A witness said:
“In most cases their clothing was burning.
“It was a horrible thing. They screamed as they jumped.”