Columbia, SC Insane Asylum Fire, June 1897

Columbia SC  State Insane Asylum Fire.jpg

FIRE IN AN INSANE ASYLUM.

ATTENDANTS AT COLUMBIA, S. C., AT FIRST REFUSED TO ADMIT FIREMEN TO THE BURNING BUILDING.

Columbia, S. C., June 2. -- A few minutes after 1 P.M. fire was discovered in the laundry of the State Insane Asylum, where nearly 1,000 patients are confined. The local appliances were unequal to cope with the flames, and a general alarm was rung in. The flames had gained much headway, before the arrival of the engines, however, and the laundry, electric, and heating plants were all lost, the main building being saved only by heroic efforts. Meanwhile the attendants had a horrible experience controlling the patients. Several hundred of the latter were walking in the grounds when the fire commenced, and, panic-stricken, they would have broken away but for the efforts of the authorities.
At one time it was feared that a lynching would result from an attack of two negro attendants on Fire Chief MAY. They had been placed as sentinels to keep the crowd out of the laundry, and refused to admit the firemen, one of the striking the Chief with a brick when he tried to force his way in.
The Superintendent and police had to smuggle the two negroes away to save them from the crowd, and they were put in the county jail for safekeeping. A policeman and fireman were overcome by heat, and both may die.

The New York Times New York 1897-06-03