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37 Years Ago: Second Fire in Six Months Breaks Out in Barclay Hotel

By Eric Richardson
Published: Friday, August 21, 2009, at 11:12AM
Firefighters at the Barclay Hotel Los Angeles Examiner / Public Domain [digitallibrary.usc.edu]

Firefighters tear apart a smoldering mattress inside the Barclay Hotel while fighting a fire on March 15, 1972. A second blaze broke out in September.

Around 2am on August 21, 1972, guest Harry Roche smelled smoke from his bed in room 532 of the Barclay Hotel at 4th and Main. Finding his room phone dead, he ran downstairs to alert the hotel manager.

No one was killed or seriously injured in the blaze that night, but just over five months earlier a similar fire had left three guests dead and seven others injured.

Blame for that March 15 blaze was placed on a guest who was smoking in bed on the hotel's sixth floor. Two women and a man were burned to death on that floor.

The September fire broke out on the same floor -- something a little odd given that the hotel had not even returned the rooms to use. Guests were evacuated from the 4th and 5th floors of the hotel and waited in the lobby while fire crews fought the flames above.

Fire again broke out at the hotel on September 11, 1974. This time, though, a new fire-alarm system and fire-resistant doors. The devices had been installed the year previous in response to new city rules that required residential buildings be brought up to current fire codes.

A curious side-note to the March 15 blaze: While fire crews were still at work, Harvey Lynn Beagle II, a resident of the Cecil Hotel, approached a police officer and claimed to have set the fire. He pulled out a newspaper clipping from his wallet that showed him to be a convicted arsonist. Police took Beagle into custody, but released him a few days later when it became clear he could not have been responsible.

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