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Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Spokane: Two devastating fires made headlines, including one that claimed the life of a 6-year-old

 (S-R archives)
(S-R archives)

Two tragic fires dominated Spokane’s front pages.

The first took place thousands of miles away, at the Rialto Theater in New Haven, Connecticut – yet two Spokane twins, age 21, were in the midst of it.

Andrew and Tilton Doolittle of Spokane, both Yale University students, were among hundreds of people injured when the packed movie theater caught fire. At least three people were dead. The Doolittle twins were in the Yale infirmary, being treated for unspecified injuries. They were the sons of Dr. and Mrs. G.T. Doolittle of Spokane.

From the fire beat, Part 2: The second tragedy occurred at a street bonfire at Liberty and Division streets in Spokane.

Gladys Ellefsen, 6, was playing near the fire with several other children when someone threw a heap of tarred paper onto the fire, causing it to flame out with a roar. The shooting flames caught her dress.

She ran about helplessly and the other frantic children did not know what to do.

Spokane’s city attorney, J.M. Geraghty, heard the screaming and ran a block and half to the scene. He reached the child, tore off his overcoat and wrapped it around the child. The coat smothered the flames, but the girl was already severely burned. Geraghty flagged down a passing motorist, who rushed the child to the hospital.

She died later that evening.

From the dignitary file: Spokane was preparing for the visit of a distinguished visitor, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the supreme allied commander during the World War.

A parade and a banquet were planned the next day in his honor.

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