After the Fire: UWT to Commemorate 1908 Blaze, Death

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A 1908 fire in UW Tacoma's GWP building, then occupied by Davis, Smith & Co., is commemorated by a photo display on the building's 3rd floor.

At the time of the 1908 fire, UW Tacoma's GWP Building was occupied by Davis, Smith & Co.

Almost exactly 100 years to the day after a firefighter was killed during a blaze in what's now the Garretson Woodruff Pratt Building of the UW Tacoma campus, the university will host a ceremony commemorating the once-forgotten fire on Monday, Feb. 25 at 1 p.m.

Historian and UW Tacoma lecturer Michael Sullivan will bring the story of the fire to life. Other guests will include Tacoma Fire Chief Ron Stephens and a fire department honor guard. The university will also unveil a new historic photo display at the ceremony, which will be held on the third floor of the GWP Building.

On Feb. 24, 1908, a fire erupted on the top floor of the building, now occupied by UW Tacoma classrooms, student services, faculty and administrative offices. The early morning fire was apparently caused by crossed wires. Lt. George M. Hill was killed falling from a ladder on the top floor. Five other firefighters were injured. Six employees of Davis Smith & Co., then occupants of the building, suffered burns.

Three days after the fire, thousands of sorrowful Tacoma residents lined St. Helens Avenue to watch Lt. Hill's funeral procession."Not many people know much about this fire," said Kim Davenport, program administrator for UW Tacoma's Urban Studies program and one of the organizers of the event. "The university is making a huge impact as Tacoma changes, but we also need to understand our own history."

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February 22, 2008