1963 Fitchville nursing home fire haunts survivors, would-be rescuers

50 years ago today, tragedy left 63 local residents dead.
Cary Ashby
Nov 23, 2013
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The screams of trapped residents burning alive in the Golden Age Nursing Home in 1963 forever haunted the residents who survived and the many people who desperately tried to save them.

Considered the second worse nursing home fire in the history of the country, the horrific fire changed nursing homes forever -- probably the only positive point to come out of the devastation.

Glass block windows, restraints tying residents to their burning beds and blocked entrances played a part in the loss of 63 lives, said Tom Neel, the president of the New London Area Historical Society.

The electrical fire began in the upper story attic shortly before 5 a.m. Nov. 23, 1963. The telephone system already had become inoperable due to the fire that broke out quickly and spread with a vengeance.

Every fire department in the area started rolling up to the scene on U.S. 250 within 10 minutes of the first call. But, by the time the firefighters got there, boiling tar from the roof already had started falling into the building, making it a very difficult job to get the residents outside.

A young man who was in the process of getting through seminary happened to be passing by the fire and stopped to help.

"If the wind hadn't been blowing so hard, I could have gotten more out. ... By the time the smoke overcame the building, I was crawling out on my hands and knees," the passerby told investigators.

The manager of the nursing home at the time told investigators some of the residents were so terrified, they ran back to their rooms instead of trying to get out of the building.

Firefighters were told to spray the occupied metal beds holding the deceased very lightly so their remains could be properly identified by the coroners of the area.

A photograph of one of the victims detailed restraints holding her arms down while she burned to death, unable to escape.

The metal beds melted, bent and twisted under the intense heat of the fire, Neel said.

Stories about the tragedy were published this week in the Norwalk Reflector.

 

Comments

webflowerz1

I always wondered the history of this fire.. I had saw the historical marker sign many times and knew it was a nursing home fire.. so sad..that something so drastic would be the thing that produced change in the treatment of our elderly.

DieselSmoke

webflower21...Here are some memories from people that were there. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A...