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SILVER GRID FIRE.

the adjourned inquest. INSUFFICIENT MEANS OF ESCAPE. GLASS VERANDAHS CONDEMNED. The adjourned inquest on tho six victims of the Silver Grid fire in Manchester street, on tho morning of Monday, November 19th. was held by the Coroner (Mr T. A. B. Bailey) yesterday. Senior-Sergeant Wohlman appeared tor the police, Mr Goo. Harper for the Christchurch Firo Board, and Mr Loiighnan for the Christchurch City Council.

Senior-Sergeant Wohlman taid it was | proposed to call only threo or four wn- | xicsscs regarding tiie iiro. j'ho Coi'fjiiti" suiii this was all that was necessary. it uugut be necossary _to cousuior the advisability _ 01 uavui£ snass veranaahs in iroui. o; aoaruiag.•ouses and noteis, and might be a matter ttic City Council could, enquire into. . . . _ ~ , Constablo J. Yv. Ncstntt stated tnat Jie "-avo the alarm ;u 2.16 a.m. iroui tho Joraer el St. Asaph and Colombo streets. \\ hen lie reached tho scene oi Liie fire two minutes later, tho footboard along t.n.c verandah ivas burningCharles Clarence Warner, Superinteii- ; dent of the Ciiristchurch Firo Brigade. rr 3 ve particulars as to receiving the | alarm at 2.3/ a.m. Aiter getting tae ; loads to work witness enquired if there wore any people still in the building, but could secure no definite reply. At 2.40 a.m. a man named Edwaptl "Williams casie running from Tuam street, and said there was a woman in the building. A ladder was' erected, and witness ascending entered the building by the front balcony door, and saw two I bodies lving facc downwards on the 1 tioor of the first room on the right. Ho | lifted the first body, Mrs Stack's, and I'eaTv that &hc was dead. He pulled the I body out of tho room, and placed it in the passage. Mrs Stack was attired in a dark skirt. Entering the room again, lie lifted the second body, Beoro's. Getting Beero into the passage, witness noticed that ho gasped, and tho man wae takon to the street. A fireman who had been left on the verandah called out that there was another person in the building. This was Gledhill, xvho was found under a bed, and lie was carried down to tho 6treet. Considerable difficulty was experienced in keeping Glodhill from re-entering tho building, ho being in a demented state. About 3 a.m. Foreman Davis reported that there was a body lying on the floor in room 19, the body being fully dressed. It was found to bo that of Frederick "William Hatch. There was no fire in the room, and the body was left there until a suitable conveyance arrived. About, 3.20 a.m. a fireman reported that there was a burnt trunk lying across the rafters of the skylight. It was the romains of Thomas David Smith. From observations which ho had made, it was his opinion that the fir© originated on the ground floor in the vicinity of the office. Everything possible was done for th© sufferers, and he would like it placed on r©cord that thanks "were du© to th© Salvation Army officers at the People's Palace for their kindness to the injured. The office wa6 situated almost in tho centre of the building, rather more to the front than the back. The effect of a stairway in a building acted as a ventilator and a funnel for the flames. The volume of flame coming up the stairway had the effect of cutting off tho occupants of the front part of the building upstairs from ' tKe. fire escapes at the back. The building had two iron fire-escapes at the back. These were satisfactory. Excepting for the little woodou platform, 18 inches wide, running along th© top of the verandah, there was no escape. Before the Brigado arrived the fir© had burst out of the front windows of tho ground floor, and broken the glass of the verandah roof The iron framo verandah, with the broken glass, would be a source of serious danger to anyone venturing on it.

"jMEANS OF ESCAPE INSUFFICIENT."

To Coroner: From his cxperienco he was of the opinion that that class of verandah was dangerous, especially in lodging-houses and other places where a number of people resided. The means of escape from firo in the front of tho building, in his opinion, were not sufficient. There should have been an iron balcony fire-escape, with ladders leading down to the street. To Senior-Sergeant Wohlman: The City Council was the authority responsible for seeing that proper fire-escapes wero provided. Under tho Fire Brigades Act, he, as superintendent,, had the responsibility of inspecting th© fire escapes in buildings such as theatres and other places of- amusement, and h© thought it would bo desirable if th© superintendent of the Fire Brigade had similar powers with regard to lodginghouses, hotels, and other public buildings.

To Mr Harper: Section 51 of th© Fir< Brigades Act defined liis powers wit' regard to inspecting and reporting o: fire escapes. Tlie wooden platform ove the verandah was about 18 inches wide There were no handrails. If the gang way had been 2ft Gin wide, as define* in the by-law, it would still not hav been of sufficient width, but it woul have given the people escaping a bette chance of avoiding the broken g!as; Even had the panes not been broke there would have been danger of stef ping through them. He did not ot jor-t so much to the hanging verandah which wove being used now. Mr Loughnan asked no questions. PROPRIETOR'S EVIDENCE. [ John Percival Smith, proprietor ol the Silver Grid, said he took over the r business about five years ago from ' Alfred Burns, now of Melbourne. Burns had a lease with a 14 years' currency. Witness took over the furniture on payment of £LSo. Tho place paid witness very well. When ho took it over, witness had to increase the amount of furniture. He valued it at £400 at the time of the fire. The insurance was -CiVjO. There was no insurance on tho stock, which lie valued at about £X3O. His wife kept the lodgers' register. It was possible that persons had lodged at the place on the night- of the fire with- '' out their names having been entered in ' the register, but witness was not in a I position to say. On the day before tho ' fire witness wa? out at Halswell, not rc- | turning till after ~ p.m. He remained [ in the place till he retired at about [ 11.1-j p.m. He secured the doors both [ back and front beforo going to bed. I As far a.-, he could sec, everybody else : then appeared to be in bed. Downstairs I the place was lit with electric light, and upstairs, the passages with gas and tho ■ bedrooms with candles. The onlv fire that had been burning during the day ' was out when witness retired. The gas | meter was in the office. The gas was 1 , never turned off at the meter, which j was a shilling-in-the-slot one. X 0 shil. I ling was put in during the evening. I Anyone in the building v.ould have ac- • cess to the office. Witness turned out : the gas in the passage before retiring. , j He was oyit© certain that the light in I Thomas Siaith's room was burning on the Sundaj night. Ho did not •frp'any-

thing of this man on that evening. After retiring, witness and his wife were awakened by a clash like the breaking of the Ircnt window. "Witness rushed out on to tho balcony, and aroused Mrs Stack and his sister-in-law, Miss Joyce,, who were sleeping in the room adjoining. His wife was on the balcony with him. Ho then went into the passage and gave the alarm, and heard people moving. He could not proceed in that direction, however, became of the smoke.. and he was satisfied that tho rear of tho building was cui- off from the front at that time by smoke and heat. He helped Miss Joyce and Mrs Stack through the bedroom window. When Mrs >tack came 011 to the bnlccny she only had white on. Senior-tScrgeant "Wohlman : You are satisfied that both Mrs Stack and Mi;-s Joyce were out on the verandah!' I Witness: lam positive. Witness stated that :ifter this he crawled aloug the wooden bridging, his wiii: following him. Flames were all around them, leaping through the gla>s verandah. He assisted h's wife Imrk. | From the balcony witness wont back to his room. his. wife following him. As he climbed through the window he saw her slide down the verandah on to the road below. He then turned to help | Miss Joyce, who threw herself at him. He, went through the glass of the verandah, 3nd she also went partly through. Miss Jove© clambered back and assisted witness back, and from there they got along to the window next door, through which they crnwlcd and escaped.- Witness sa<w nothing of Mrs Stack, though he looked for her I and called out to her. His experience of glass verandahs was that such were death-traps. He thought tho glass would be ail right if an iron balcony were provided. Tho Coroner said some means should ! be provided of getting from the balcony to the ground. I Witness added that one of the fire ; escapes in the rear of the building had some days before the lire been lowered to the'ground, so that access could have been secured to the building by this means. He could suggest no cause for tho origin of the fire. The building had been inspected on several occasions during his tenure by the authorities in reference, to fire escapes. They had made no recommendations whatever. To Coroner: At the end of the passago there was a notice on which in large letters were the words "Fire Escape." There were no side windows in the building. OTHER WITNESSES. Sylvia Joyce stated that before the fire she was a waitress at tho Silver j ' Grid. She was a sister of tho last ; witness's wifo. Boarders may have made use of the fire escape, the bottom ■ hinge of which was down, for getting j in and out of the place. Witness retired to bed at 11 o'clock. There tvere no fires then alive. That in the kitchen range had been out during the evening. "Witness blew her candle out when she went to bed. Witness then described the events during the firo. When Mrs. Stack was firstarotised she had only a. singlet on. When witness missed her she went hack and called, but secured no answer. She could only conchjdtj that .Mrs. Stack went, back to ' secure some more clothing, Mrs Stack ' was subject to fainting fits. Witness could not account for the fire in any way. Frederick R. W. -Porrin, a boarder ' at the Silver Grid on the morning of 1 the fire, said it, was impossible to get ' past the stairs to the front. Witness 1 could suggest no cause for the fire. ; CORONER'S VERDICT. ' Th© Coroner said the means of escape from the front part of the building were insufficient. Of course, people i could havo got along the footboard on [ the verandah, but it was a very narrow ; board, and very dangerous to tread, I and then there was no way of getting 4 to the ground except through the next--1 door building. He wished to express his. appreciation of. the action of the ! Salvation Army people for their kindness to tho sufferers. He recorded tlie 5 following verdict:— „ . ! ' ''That the said Elsie Stack, Frederick 1 William Hatch, and Thomas David ' Smith died on the 19th. The said ! Annie Smith and Thomas Edward Gleu--5 hill on the 20th, and the said Henry 1 Herbert Boere on the 2lst day of No- ■ vember, 1917, at Christchurch; that 5 the cause of death of tho said Frederick t William Hatch was suffocation, and of I the other deceased persons shock from - burns received. The cause of tho suffo- , cation and burns was a fire which oc--1 curred in a boarding-house known 33 - the Silver Grid, in Manchester street, j Christchurch, leased by . John Percival Smith, but thero is no evidence to show how tho fire originated. The evidence shows that the means provided for es--5 capo in case of fire were not sufficient f for that part of the building lying to 1 the front of the'staircase." 3 TWO RIDERS. 3 To the verdict the Coroner added the 3 following riders: — "That it is not desirable that veran--1 dahs roofed with glass should be per- ' mitted on any buildings used as boara-ing-houses, or for public purposes. 3 "That it is desirable in all fire dxs- ' tricts the same power of inspection of 3 means of escape m case of lire bo given - to the superintendent of the Fire Bn--1 gadc in respect of boarding-houses and s similar nrtblic buildings, as is now given s to him" by. the Firo Brigades Act m s rospect of places of public amusement. * ■**" I - OUR BOYS. 4— * Relatives of soldiers whose names 1 have appeared in th© honours lists or 1 tho casualty lists, should send the solr diers' portraits to tho "Weekly Press," . if they wish to have them reproduced - in an illustrated newspaper. When 1 sending in a portrait there are four B essentials to be remembered—l, To i state the rank, initials, and name of Z. the soldier, and the town or district ne belongs to; 2, the nature of his award, or his casualty; 3, tho full address to which the portrait is to be 10• l " turned; 4, address the photograph to - "The Editor, the 'Weekly Press,' s Christchurch."

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/CHP19171128.2.95

Bibliographic details

SILVER GRID FIRE., Press, Volume LIII, Issue 16070, 28 November 1917

Word Count
2,271

SILVER GRID FIRE. Press, Volume LIII, Issue 16070, 28 November 1917

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