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Almost Yesterday is a glimpse into the rich history of our region. Dr. Frank Nickell takes listeners on a journey to specific moments in time, such as the first radio broadcast on KFVS, the history of Farmington’s Carleton College, and the short-lived safari on a Mississippi River island. A gifted storyteller and local historian, Dr. Nickell’s wit and love for the past are combined with sounds and music that augment his narrative.On Saturday, June 7, 2008, Almost Yesterday received First Place in the "Special Programs" category at the Missouri Broadcasters Association Awards Banquet in Kansas City, Missouri.Almost Yesterday airs every Wednesday at 5:42 and 7:42 a.m. and 5:18 p.m.

Almost Yesterday: The Tragic Fire at the Wayside Inn

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Bulletin Journal
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KRCU
Article in Bulletin Journal on April 3, 1979

It seems like Almost Yesterday that a tragic fire swept through the Wayside Inn in Farmington, Missouri.

Few things are more terrifying than fire out of control. A man who had experienced a long and varied life recently said that he had seen nothing more frightening than fire on a ship at sea, fire in a full barn, or fire in a nursing home.

At approximately 5:00 a.m. on April 2, 1979, the Wayside Inn Nursing Home in Farmington caught fire. There were 37 residents and one attendant on the premises when the fire began. Strong winds made the fire intense and fast, and the one story granite building burned rapidly. The roof collapsed and soon only the outer walls were standing.

The local fire department was on the scene in minutes, joined by units from neighboring communities. Ambulances came to assist from as far away as St. Louis.

The number of patients who lost their lives in this tragic event was 26. It was the most deadly nursing home fire in Missouri since 1957 when 72 residents lost their lives in a Warrenton facility.

The victims of the fire were from across the region: Bonne Terre, Farmington, Potosi, Bismarck, Marquand, Charleston, Lutesville, and Piedmont.

News of the tragedy was reported across the nation, from Florida to Oregon. Governor Joseph Teasdale responded quickly and strongly to the tragedy, ordering a survey of all nursing homes in the state, with the result indicating a total of 501 homes, 72 of which failed to pass basic fire safety regulations.

Soon there was legislation establishing state-wide fire and safety standards for nursing homes. These went into effect on October 1, 1979.

Frank Nickell is a retired history professor at Southeast Missouri State University.
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