“My great-uncle died in a fire in July 1944 at Hudson House in Clark County. I wonder if you have any information regarding this fire? Thanks.”
— Jarvis Smartt
Jarvis Smartt’s great-uncle was part of a little-known aspect of one the most significant chapters of Vancouver history.
Significant because Max Vigon was among the tens of thousands of people who came to Vancouver during World War II to work in the Kaiser shipyard.
Little-known because Vigon didn’t die in the infamous Dormitory D blaze that claimed seven lives and earned a courageous rescuer a Carnegie life-saving award. That was a 1942 fire and it’s what immediately came to mind when we received the inquiry — even though Smartt cited a fire in July 1944.
It turns out that there were at least three blazes in the residential complex, and two of them were fatal fires that killed a total of at least eight people. Vigon died in a Dormitory B fire that broke out on July 5, 1944. (The third blaze was on Sept. 30, 1944; while there were no fatalities, the four-alarm Dormitory G blaze injured five firemen.)