The following article, written by J.F. Miller, is an account of the tragedy at Babbs Switch, Oklahoma on December 24, 1924. Publisher Tom Warren II selected this story for publication.
In Babbs Switch, Oklahoma, on December 24th 1924, a fire broke out in the one room school house killing 36 people and injuring over 35 more.
The school house was hosting a Christmas Eve party for the students. The number of people in attendance is debated over but the best estimate is around 200 adults and kids. The Christmas tree was decorated with lit candles and paper decorations. While the presents were being passed out the teenage Santa, Santa accidentally knocked over one of the candles on the tree while reaching under the tree. The dry needles and paper decorations quickly went up in flames, which spread to the wooden school house.
The attendees quickly rushed to the only exit, which only opened inward. The press of bodies soon prevented people from escaping the building. One boy was able to escape through the windows, which were blocked by mesh screens to prevent break-ins, when a man was able to pull back the mesh just enough for the boy to escape.
This fire resulted in many new laws being instituted to prevent this tragedy from happening again. In schools, there had to be at least two exits, all of which had to open outwards. Fire safety equipment has to be kept on the premises at all times, and all screens for break in prevention have to be able to be opened from the inside. One 3 year old girl went missing after the fire and in 1957 Grace Reynolds came forward claiming to be the lost girl. It wasn't until 1999 that a local news paper released the truth about Ms. Reynolds not being the lost child. This was kept secret by the lost girl's father who knew the truth, but didn't think that his wife could stand to lose their daughter for a second time.