The Our Lady Of Angels School Fire occurred on December 1, 1958. The fire was started in the basement of the Catholic grade school in Chicago. The school was a two story building with about 1,600 students in Kindergarten through 8th grade. The official cause of the fire has never been determined, however, all indications point to arson. A ten-year-old fifth grade boy confessed to setting the blaze in an interview 3 years later, but shortly after denounced his confession. It seemed that he was more afraid of his parents than the police. He also confessed to setting various other fires around the neighborhood in apartment buildings. It is mostly agreed that he was the start of the fire. In his confession, he knew details of the origin of the fire that had not been released to the public. He said that he left his classroom to go to the restroom and then lit three matches and threw them in the cardboard trashcan underneath the stairwell next to the janitor's closet. Even three years later, he could recall specific details of where everything was located. Another young boy confirmed that he had been bragging about having matches with him, and that he had asked him if he wanted him to start a fire so that they would have a few days of vacation. Even with the strong evidence pointing to him, he was never prosecuted.
Although it was most likely not a natural disaster, there were many things leading up to the devastating destruction of the school. Our Lady of Angels passed a safety inspection by the fire department a mere two weeks prior to the fire, because it didn't have to meet all the guidelines according to a grandfathering clause in 1949. So although the school was in agreement with the fire safety laws of the time, the school was ill-prepared for any sort of fire. There was only one fire escape, and no automatic fire alarms or smoke detectors. There were no sprinklers, heat detectors, or alarms connected to the fire department.