1. Chapter on the 1929 Cleveland Clinic Fire from “To Act as a Unit” The Story of the Cleveland Clinic
2. From the Ohio Historical Society
A catastrophic fire at the Cleveland Clinic in 1929 impacted fire-fighting practices and hospital procedures in Ohio and across the United States.
On May 15, 1929, the main building of the Cleveland Clinic caught fire. The fire began when an exposed light bulb was too close to some nitro-cellulose x-ray film, igniting the film. In the end, 123 people lost their lives. Eighty of the dead were either patients or visitors at the clinic, and the rest were employees. One of the Cleveland Clinic’s founders, Dr. John Phillips, was among the dead. Most of the victims died from inhaling poisonous gases produced by the burning x-ray film.
Investigators found that the clinic was not to blame for the tragedy, but the Cleveland Clinic fire influenced major changes at both the local and national levels. The city of Cleveland decided that fire departments should receive gas masks as part of their equipment and advocated creating an ambulance service for the city. Nationally, medical facilities established new standards for storing hazardous materials such as x-ray film.