The Roosevelt Hotel Fire- December 29th, 1963
On December 29th, 1963, a fire erupted in Jacksonville's Roosevelt Hotel, one of only two luxury hotels in Jacksonville at the time. When it was all said and done, 22 people perished and over 100 were injured, including 20 Jacksonville Firefighters, in what is still to this day the single worst one-day death toll in the history of Jacksonville Florida.
The fire started shortly before 7:30 am in the ballroom ceiling on the first floor of the 13-story, 300 room luxury hotel. Firefighters arrived on scene to find people hanging out of windows by tied-together bed linens. The United States Navy suppled eight helicopters for rescuing victims trapped higher than aerial ladders could reach. These victims were air lifted to neighboring parking garages for treatment by rescue personnel. A Second Alarm was struck at 7:47am, followed by a Third Alarm at 7:50. A Fourth and General Alarm was sounded at 7:57am.
The fire was extinguished within two hours. In all, 475 people were rescued. 21 people were found dead in their beds during a secondary search of the hotel. One firefighter, Assistant Chief James Romedy, died while trying to evacuate trapped patrons.
Among the distinguished guests in the hotel at the time were Norm Sloan, the head basketball coach at the University of Florida, and 1963 Miss America Donna Axum. Axum was treated for smoke inhalation and burns to her throat and nose. She was bed ridden for several days.