Blaze Destroys State Hospital Farm Barns, 1931

19 03 2012

The following is an article from the Oregon Statesman published May 31, 1931.

Blaze Destroys Two State Hospital Farm Barns, Loss $40,000

Excited Inmate Dashes Into Inferno, Saved With Shirt Burned

——–

Believed Incendiary; Cattle all Saved, Two by Force

Fire thought to be incendiary totally destroyed two large barns at the state hospital farm, four and one half miles east of here, at 9:15 o’clock last night.  The loss on the structures and the contents is estimated at $40,000.

More than 100 head of cattle had been turned out only a few hours before the flames started.  None of these were lost although two bulls, at large after keepers had loosed them, started back into the flames but were repelled by their keepers.

Man Rushes Back, Shirt Burned Off

No inmates of the hospital farm were in the barns when the flames were seen but one man, apparently deranged by the fire, started back into the blaze.  Keepers rescued him but not until his shirt was burned.  It was necessary to handcuff him to keep him away from the fire.

Attendants at the state hospital farm did not discover the flames until they had started to lick their way through the roof of the large barn.  The headway the fire had gained inclined them to the theory that some inmate had started the blaze.  A few years ago a state hospital inmate started another fire.

Salem Firemen Prevent Spread

Two Salem fire trucks went to the fire and assisted in keeping the flames within the limits of the two barns.  Across the road to the north stood a granary which also contained valuable farm equipment.  This was untouched by the blaze and the main buildings of the hospital farm, at least 1000 feet from the two barns, were unhurt.

The state carries no insurance on its property but has a replacement fund set up from general appropriations.  It was thought last night that there is now sufficient money in the fund to rebuild the two large barns.

Silos Damaged, Also Hay in Barns

In addition to the two barns, three large tile silos were racked by the flames.  Nothing was in the silos as all the ensilage had been used up preparatory to painting the barns before the new crop came in.  One hundred tons of baled hay were stored in the two barns and in addition there was considerable cow feed and milking equipment.

The flames raced scores of feet into the air as the large wooden structures flared up and attracted people from miles away.  More than 1000 autos full of spectators were driven to the scene and state traffic officers were called upon to handle the crowds.  The blaze was at its height about an hour after the first alarm was turned in.  Many persons in Salem believed the prison was on fire, inquiries to the Statesman indicated

Dr. W.H. Looney is the physician in charge of the state hospital farm which supplies the state hospital with much of its food.  Dr. R.E. Lee Steiner is general superintendent of the hospital.

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