The Cleveland Collinwood school fire started on Ash Wednesday, March 4, 1908. It erupted when a wooden joist caught fire when it was overheated by a steampipe underneath the main stairwell inside the school. The stairway (without the benefit of firewalls between each floor) acted like a chimney and the fire quickly spread. It was aided by the wood in the school and the oiled floors.
Some of the students who escaped to other floors died by jumping out the second and third floor windows. The fast-growing flames soon overtook many of the other students who died of smoke inhalation in the buildings doorways. Initial reports claimed they couldn't escape because the doors opened inward--not outward. That is not true. The doors did only have door knob latches not the crash-type door latches of today...which the Collinwood Fire helped initiate.
When it was over, 172 students, two teachers and a rescuer died. Several of them were burned beyond recognition. Many of them are buried at Lakeview Cemetery together.
The Collinwood Fire was one of the deadliest of its type in the United States.