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Pioneer, OH Nursing Home Fire, Nov 1979


Pioneer, Ohio (AP) -- A fire believed started by a 4-year-old boy gutted a home for elderly and mentlly retarded persons in this northwestern Ohio town Sunday, killing at least 14 persons and leaving two missing, officials said.
Mayor R. Bruce Kidston said the victims, most in their 60s, were all "very badly" burned.
"We have 14 confirmed dead and two names are missing off our list. There's a possibility we may end up with 16 dead. I hope to God it doesn't run any higher," Kidston said.
"They got seven people out the other side (of the building)," he continued. "We couldn't get anybody else out. They just couldn't penetrate. We just could not penetrate."
Police Chief David Norris said about 23 persons, many of them mentally retarded, lived in the boarding home. The residents ranged in age from 27 to 70, he said.
One of the victims was Norris' mother-in-law, GLADIS COATS, owner of the boarding house. Norris said she was 61 or 62. She had escaped the fire but returned to the burning house. Norris said she was found at the bottom of a flight of stairs, her arms around a female patient she was trying to carry out.
Kidston said MRS. COATS "was assisting our firemen in getting people out." When firefighters were beaeten back by the flames, MRS. COATS
"escaped from us, got back in the building. She went upstairs, got one of the women. We found her body about an hour ago."
The mayor said the blaze was started by a 4-year-old boy who set a couch on fire.
"He probably went over there and got breakfast," Kidston said. "Some patients probably left matches on the table. We know he set it. There's no doubt how it started."
Norris said the boy, who was not identified, was one of three children who lived with their mother in an apartment in the boarding house rented separately by MRS. COATS and her husband, GENE. The woman and her children escaped safely.

Titusville Herald Pennsylvania 1979-11-12

article | by Dr. Radut