Eric Edward Esper
The Ohio State Penitentiary Fire of 1930
2016
Oil on canvas
26x34
After 100 years of brutal history at the Ohio State Penitentiary, the botched escape attempt of 3 prisoners caused the deaths of 322 men. On April 21, 1930, a crude wick did not start a planned (by the 3 escapees) fire in 2 empty cellblocks under construction until after 5:00 p.m. when all of the prisoners were locked in their cells. At 5:53 p.m., all electrical power went out and the phones went dead. By 6:00 p.m., the roof was engulfed in flames that soon spread to the occupied cellblocks where men were burned alive while locked in their cells. The roof then collapsed, crushing the trapped prisoners.
The Ohio militia and guardsmen were called to control the prisoners, but the local fire department was not called until it was too late to control the fire, which blazed until 7:30 p.m. There were many accounts of the heroic efforts of the prison guards, and prisoners alike, who risked their lives attempting to save others. But, unfortunately, in a structure designed to imprison men like this, rescue was difficult.
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