NORFOLK HOTEL IS
Loss Valued at $250,000
In Ruinous All-Night Blaze
Firemen Put Up Great Battle
by Dick Pearce
Hotel stands in smoking ruins this morning, devastated by the
biggest fire here since Falls Department Store burned down in 1937.
blaze that defied firemen for six hours and then took another four
hours to subside, completely burned out the hotel and threatened to
spread to adjacent buildings before firemen from six departments
brought it under control.
The total loss
was estimated at approximately $250,000. Cause of the fire was
firemen stayed on the job throughout last night and this morning as
the stubborn fire continued to flare inside the hotel.
one was seriously injured. Only a frantic warning by Fire Chief Gord.
Dickson of Simcoe saved the lives of three local firemen who were on
the fire escape in front of the main entrance. They got down in the
nick of time, seconds before the large eave trough tumbled from the
top of the building and landed where they had been standing.
Two stores were
cleared out early in the evening, a move that saved thousands of
dollars worth of merchandise. Citizens pitched in to help Reg.
Westbrook and Murray Pond remove all the goods from their appliance
and sporting goods stores.
concentration of water on the south side of the hotel building saved
the King Apartments and business block from destruction. Morrison's
Appliances and King's China Shop, immediately south of the hotel,
escaped serious damage.
The battle put up
by firemen to confine the raging inferno was nothing less than heroic,
Time after time, fire fighters entered the flaming, smoke-filled
building to get at the source of the fire. Sometimes they wore air
packs, sometimes they didn't.
MUTUAL AID PLAN
soon ran out of air packs and emergency calls were put in to other
fire departments. Trucks were dispatched under the county-wide mutual
aid plan by the Port Dover Fire Department under Fire Chief Alex.
Spain, Delhi Fire Department under Chief Max Bertling, Waterford Fire
Department led by Chief Clare Tench. Air packs were received from
Chief Stan Seaton of Teeterville Fire Departments and Chief William
Lambert of the Brantford Fire Department. Several Jarvis firemen also
frozen, hands numbed and [covered by] sheets of ice, the firemen saw
the turning point about 1.30 a.m. whe the flames began to die down.
However, it was 5.45 a.m. before the hotel was in total darkness.
people from the town and district gathered on Norfolk and Sydenham
Streets to watch the spectacular blaze, which was discovered about
7.30 p.m. by the Proprietor Joe Dumsha and Manager Bob Combe.
smelled smoke and opened the door to the beverage room,"
related Mr. Combe. "It was completely filled with black smoke.
By the time I telephoned the fire department, the smoke had blocked
off the hall and stairway. I couldn't get through to warn the guests
about 20 guests registered at the hotel last night, Mr. Combe said.
Six of them were upstairs and managed to get out via fire escapes.
Two went down the fire escape at the front and the other four
descended the fire escapes at the rear of the building.
records show that the hotel was built in 1863, following a
disastrous fire which wiped out what was then known as the Norfolk
House Hotel and the adjoined Music Hall. The hotel was one of
the finest in the district, the home away from home for many
commercial travellers and a downtown landmark.
The loss to Mr. Dumsha
was a severe blow. He had made many improvements, including
redecoration of rooms and better beverage room and diningroom
facilities, in recent years.
who marked his 63rd birthday yesterday, said last night that the
loss would exceed $175.000. Real estate sources, however, told the
Reformer that they thought $250,000 would be an accurate estimate.
One of the
hotel guests, Leland M. Smith of Chicago, had just checked into the
hotel. He came here to see his mother and had gone to her home when
the fire broke out.
guests in the 40-room hotel, Nils Olsson and Gord. Burton,
maintenance men for Cities Services, were out for dinner when they
heard about the fire. Rushing back to the hotel, they went up the
back stairs but smoke barred their way to the rooms. Like the other
guests, they lost all their possessions.
guests included several employees of the Comstock Company,
contractors for the Hydro Conversion in this district, and a few
Two hours after
the fire started, Mr. Dumsha climbed a ladder to his second floor
apartment and brought out a quantity of his wife's jewellery and other
effects. Fireman Herb. Hause assisted him.
Free coffee was
supplied to firemen by several firms and organizations, including
Royal Simcoe Restaurant, Hi-Way Restaurant, Olympia Restaurant,
Salvation Army and Speedie Snack Service. Individual citizens also
provided light refreshments and a coffee bar was set up in the garage
of J. W. "Jake" Chase, chairman of the fire, light and water
County Police and Ontario Provincial Police directed traffic and
combined to keep the crowds in check. Several officers helped handle
the fire hose.
Cause of the fire
was not immediately known. It was believed to have started above the
bar between the men's and mixed beverage rooms. Flames crept into the
partitions out of the reach of firemen.
Two young Simcoe
Firemen who recently returned from their honeymoons, Larry Hause and
Dave Harriott, were on the job with their fellow firefighters.
FAMILY OF SIX
Mrs. Bob Berger
and four children, ages six months to five years, were forced from
their apartment in the Norfolk Hotel building by last night's fire and
lost all their possessions.
Bob Berger had
left earlier in the day for the United States to get a job and the
family had planned on joining him. Mrs. Berger lost a sum of money
which was burned in the fire. It was to have been used for the trip to
All furniture in
the apartment, which was owned by Berger's father, Sam Berger, was
destroyed. His loss was about $6,500 and there was no insurance.
know what to do," Sam Berger told The Reformer this morning.
"We've got no place for the children and my daughter-in-law, and
water damage to the King building was reported this morning. Goods in
the basement were soaked, as well as some appliances in Morrison's