Disasters · Illinois

Our Lady of Angels School fire

December 1, 1958
Chicago, Illinois
A fire breaks out at Our Lady of Angels School, killing 92 students and 3 nuns

The school catered to approximately 1600 children from kindergarten to eighth grade and had been grandfathered past fire regulations — though the exterior was brick to reduce chances of fires spreading from one building to the other, the majority of the interior was wood which allowed the fire to spread quickly inside. The school had just 4 fire extinguishers and the single fire escape was only accessible after passing a large corridor which quickly became engulfed in flames making escape nearly impossible. 95 children and nuns died in the fire while an unspecified but large number of people were injured from either smoke inhalation, burns, or injuries sustained from jumping from windows on the second floor.

It was determined the fire was a result of arson, and though a 10-year-old confessed to setting the fire, the courts found insufficient evidence to support the confession and the child was not charged with any crimes. The case is still unsolved.

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