Oshkosh, WI Fatal House Fire, Aug 1908
HOUSE IS BURNED, CHILD LOSES LIFE.
Elsie Bloechl, Aged Eight Years, Is Suffocated And Mr. And Mrs. P. Gubisch Seriously Injured.
TRAGEDY IS EARLY SUNDAY.
Dead Girl Had Lived With the Gubisch Family Since the Death of Her Mother---Flames Spread so Quickly Mr. and Mrs. Gubisch Escaped With Difficulty Through Window---Kerosene Can Explodes---Details.
Elsie Bloechl, aged eight years, suffocated and burned, dead.
Mrs. Peter Gubisch, burned about forehead, arms and feet, pneumonia feared.
Peter Gubisch, left arm badly cut by glass and artery severed, out of danger.
Residence of Peter Gubisch, 236 Walter street, totally destroyed by fire.
These are the results of a disastrous blaze which occurred Sunday morning. The dead and injured were residents of the house consumed.
The fire, which was the first one in several years to cause a fatality, started at about two o'clock Sunday morning, when the members of the family were all asleep. They were caught as if in a trap, the older persons escaping only after a most harrowing experience.
The origin of the fire is not certain, but it is believed that it was caused by the explosion of a night lamp. The explosion of a can of kerosene later added to the seriousness of the situation, causing the death of the child and rendering the escape of the older persons extremely difficult.
FLAMES SPREAD FAST.
The alarm was received by the fire department at 2:10 o'clock, and when the apparatus arrived the structure was a mass of fire. Hose company No. 6 was the first to reach the place and at that time flames were leaping from the windows as well as through the roof. The company laid a line of hose immediately, one stream being all that could be used, because of the great distance of the house from the nearest hydrant.
The building was a frame house, one and a half stories in height, and the occupants all slept on the first floor. Firemen turned a stream of water into the blazing bed rooms and when the hook and ladder company arrived the fire had been somewhat diminished. Edwin Fischer, a member of the hook and ladder company, rescued the body of the child, but Mr. and Mrs. Gubisch effected an exit without assistance, escaping through windows.
SEES FORM ON BED.
Mr. Fischer stated that when the hook and ladder department crossed the Main street bridge the members of the company could see the blaze leaping skyward. Walter street leads off Durfee street and is the first street east of Knapp street and fully a mile away from Main street bridge. The house stood in a field far away from all other residences.
"When we reached the house No. 8 company had subdued the flames somewhat by throwing a stream into the blazing bedrooms." said Mr. Fischer. "As the truck drew up to the house I heard Mrs. Gubisch screaming. She was outside the house at that time, but I did not see her. I thought it was some one within the house. Just before that time the flames had been leaping through the open windows, but the water had commenced to do its work. I did not wait for the wagon to stop bur seizing an axe I rushed to the window. Peering through the smoke I could see to the bed on the west side of the room. It was empty but I saw a form lying on the bed on the east side of the room.
CARRIES CHILD OUT.
"I went in through the open window and found the body was that of a child. She lay with her face to the wall partly covered with a sheet but with her head toward the foot of the bed. I did not wait to see whether she was alive or dead, but picked her up and carried her out. I noticed that her face and hands and one knee were black and that she was badly burned. Her long, blonde hair hung in a braid from her head and was not burned.
"As soon as I reached the open air I handed the child to Chief Brauer and went back in again looking for the woman I had heard screaming, but was told immediately afterward that she was out of the building. When I took the child out the room was filled with smoke and a blaze was burning in the ceiling over the bed, but the bed was not on fire then, although it had been ablaze and the sheet about the child was burned as was also her nightdress. It was not until afterward that I learned the child was dead when I carried her out."
WOMAN TO HOSPITAL.
Dr. J. E. Schein was called immediately to attend to the injured persons and the city ambulance was summoned to take them to St. Mary's hospital. The body of the little girl was taken to the undertaking rooms of Nesbitt & Stopper. Mr. and Mrs. Gubisch were given surgical attention at the hospital, Mr. Gubisch being able to leave again in a few hours. The woman remained at the hospital until Sunday evening, when she was removed to the home of friends on Fifth street, against the advice of her physician, who fears pneumonia, which frequently follows burns.
To Dr. Schein, Mrs. Gubisch told the story of the fire and the cause of the death of the child. She stated that she was awakened by the smell of fire coming from the kitchen and called to her husband, who occupied an adjoining room. She had difficulty in awakening him and endeavored to make her escape. She had awakened the little girl and made her way to the window, leading the child.
The house was new and the windows did not open easily and Mrs. Gubisch was obliged to break the glass. She said she told the little girl to cling to her while she did this. Just at this moment the kerosene can exploded and the flames leaped in and surrounded the woman and child. Mrs. Gubisch could not explain what became of the girl, but she knew the child released her hold and they became separated. Mrs. Gubisch said she tried to locate the little one again but could not do so because of the flames and smoke and she was abloged[sic] to crawl through the broken window to save her own life.
In the meantime Mr. Gubisch had awakened and he escaped in the same manner, but gashed his arm badly in breaking the window. There was one long cut which severed an artery and required six stitches to close and several other minor cuts. He was also slightly burned.
Mrs. Gubisch was badly burned about the forehead and arms. Dr. Schein says her forearms from her finger tips to her elbows were badly burned and her feet was scorched besides. Mr. Gubisch assisted in carrying his wife to the home of a neighbor.
Mrs. Gubisch was covered with blood from her husband's injuries when the fire department arrived, and this gave rise to the story that she had been cut by broken glass also. Dr. Schein says she received no cuts at all.
CHILD WAS BELOVED.
Mr. Gubisch is employed as a laborer and the child made her home with him and his wife. She was the daughter of John Bloechl, 732 Twentieth street, and her mother died several years ago, leaving six children. Mr. and Mrs. Gubisch are said to have always taken a great fancy to Elsie, and after her mother's death they took her to live with them, although she had not been regularly adopted.
Mr. Bloechl has married a second time and it is said he had asked the child to come back home, but she preferred to remain where she was.
The fire completely gutted the house and destroyed all the furniture, but the walls and roof remained standing as mute evidence of the tragedy which had taken place.
The Daily Northwestern, Oshkosh, WI 3 Aug 1908
Transcribed by Linda Horton. Thank you, Linda!