Clifford W. Blackmore
Twenty Years Ago
Clifford Blackmore, 34, died in the Spencer Hospital Sunday from burns received when his home in the southeast part of town was completely destroyed by fire Friday morning.
Thon Book No. 4
Clifford Blackmore Dies From Burns in Home Fire
Clifford Blackmore, 34 years of age, died at the Spencer Hospital in Lusk on Sunday, April 4, at about 2:30 p.m. from burns received when his home in the southeast part of town was completely destroyed by fire about 3:00 o'clock Friday morning.
He was taken to the hospital a short time after the fire by Night Patrolman Webster, and his burns were of such severity that little hope was held out for his recovery. He suffered deep burns on the face and practically every part of his body was burned by varying degrees. The inside of mouth and throat were also badly scorched from inhaling the flames.
A coroner's jury empaneled by county Coroner George Earl Peet at 3:00 o'clock Monday afternoon, after having evidence, returned a verdict that deceased came to his death "by his own hand; suicide, caused by setting a building on fire and receiving burns which caused his death." The coroners jury was composed of Lawrence Savage, Joe Kuhn and J. B. Griffith. The Fire Department was called shortly before 3:00 o'clock Friday morning. But when the fire-fighters reached the scene the building was a mass of flames and could not be saved. The firemen then turned most of their intention to saving the building next door, owned and occupied by the Bud Butler family.
From testimony adduced at the coroner's inquest, it is very evident that Blackmore was in an extremely depressed mental condition and had carefully prepared to end his life by setting the home on fire and perishing in the flames. After the fire had been extinguished, an examination of the water heater in the bathroom disclosed that the Skelgas valve had been turned on full, and it is believed he had saturated the walls and curtains with kerosene and gasoline, and then applied a match, in the belief that an explosion would follow and he would be killed instantly. In a statement made at the hospital to County Attorney, Wm. G. Watt and Dr. Walter E. Reckling, the attending physician, Blackmore stated that after he had set fire to his home, the pains caused by burns was so intense that he couldn't stand it, and he then broke out a window and escaped. He then went to the Bud Butler home. The Butler family took him in, but could not phone the Fire Department for the reason the fire had destroyed their communications. After remaining in the Butler home for a while, Blackmore said he would have to get "more air" and went out into the yard and lay down on the lawn where he was covered with blankets, Nigh Patrolman Webster arrived in a few minutes and took him to the hospital.
During a conscious moment at the hospital he was interviewed by County Attorney Watt, admitting that he had set the fire to the building. He told Watt that he had left notes in a cracker jar some distance from the building, saying that the notes would explain everything. Watt found the jar, in which had been placed a small cedar box and in the box were two notes , one to his father, W. S. Blackmore, one to his wife, Esther Blackmore. The notes while not directly admitting that he intended setting the building on fire, or ending his life, were of a very despondent nature. The notes were introduced at the coroner's inquest , but were not made public.
Mr. Blackmore leaves three children, Delores Mae, &, and Kenneth Lee, 6, by his first marriage, and Connie Rae nearly 4, by his second marriage. He and his second wife had recently been estranged. Of his own family, his father, W. S. Blackmore, and eight brothers and a sister survive.
The fire was one that attracted considerable attention even at the early morning hour, as it lighted the sky. Night Patrolman Dan Webster saw the blaze while making a check in the north part of town and drove to the scene. He stopped at the Robert Templeton home to turn in the fire alarm and then went on to the blaze.
At the Bud Butler home he found Blackmore, and with the help of Henry Wasserburger, who stays there, brought the burned man to the hospital.
Blackmore had awakened the Butlers when he ran from his burning house. Butlers were unable to get the telephone operator because both homes are on the same line and the fire had shorted the wires.
Thus, there was considerable delay in getting the fire siren sounded. Even when the call was put through Templetons' residence there was delay because of no direct contact with the fire siren. Usually the fire warning is relayed to the XL Cafe and someone there turns the switch in the alley.
The cafe is closed at nights now, thus the telephone operator had to call Fire Chief, Harry Fernau. He had to go the two and a half blocks to the siren switch, operated it briefly, and then went to the fire station to get the truck
However, the fire was of such nature that it is not believed the house could have been saved in any event.
M. N. Wilhermsdorfer, town light superintendent, explains that for several years the town has been trying to secure the type of automatic switch needed to operate a siren so that a connecting switch could be installed at the telephone building. The Town Council has under consideration an agreement with the telephone company to install such a switch.
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