St. Anthony's Hospital Fire

The death toll in the St. Anthony's hospital fire, which investigators believed may have been fed by fresh paint and varnish, was set at 66 today by the Catholic Chancery office.

The known dead totaled 58, including 53 bodies recovered from the debris, and five persons who died of injuries outside the hospital.

According to chancery estimates there were eight bodies still buried in the basement of the blackened shell of the three-story brick building.

Just before midnight on April 4, 1949, a fire erupted at St. Anthony’s Hospital being the second worst disaster in the United States in such an occupancy of its time claiming the lives of 75 persons, 14 of them infants. The fire department consisted of twenty-six men, including the Chief, with all but one, who was in Chicago at the time, engaged in fighting the fire. The equipment at the time included two 500 gpm pumpers, and a 750 gpm pumper. There was no ladder truck or other apparatus. The department had a limited amount of good hose and fittings but had no life net and was deficient in heavy duty appliances. Most of the fire was fought with 1 ½” hose wyed off a 2 ½” hose. The nearest aerial ladder at the time belonged to a department twenty-seven miles away. Mutual-aid was received from 11 area departments, the furthest being sixty-six miles away. Witnesses said that the fire spread like a ball of fire and a majority spoke of its rapid spread. Within three hours, floors, roofs, and part of the walls had fallen, leaving little but a rubble-filled skeleton, in which were buried the bodies of many victims. The hospital consisted of a basement and three floors.