Niagara Gazette

Columns

February 19, 2013

BRADBERRY: Out of the fire: Life from the ashes

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — “Our family has suffered and are haunted by what happened in that fire,” William Dietz’s daughter, Patti Dietz said from her California home. “Every day we remember that fire. It will haunt us all of our lives. My dad never wanted that tragic fire to happen. He never wanted anyone to die.” she told Forgione.

Indicted by a 24-member grand jury Dec. 11, 1957, on charges of first- and second-degree manslaughter after the jury heard testimony from 42 people in a probe into the fatal fire conducted by District Attorney William H. Earl, a jury of 10 men and two women in March 1958 convicted Dietz on the first-degree manslaughter charge. Genesee County Judge Philip J. Weiss sentenced Dietz to two to five years at Attica State Prison.

Patti Dietz, who was 7 years old at the time of the fire, said she still doesn’t understand why her father was convicted. She said he didn’t collect rent from the families and only agreed to let them stay there temporarily as an alternative to being homeless during the winter months after Hyde Park Village closed down.

“Those poor people had no place to go,” she said. “My dad was just trying to provide them with shelter and a place to sleep.”

Annie Chivers doesn’t remember much about Nov. 16, 1957, she’s blocked out most of the horrific memories of that fateful day, but what she does remember about life before and after is beautifully told in her short, but powerful memoir, “Out of the Fire: Life from the Ashes.”

She told the Gazette reporter in 2007, “My sister threw me out of the (second floor) window to save my life,” she said. “I remember landing on the ground and it didn’t seem to hurt that much because I landed on my butt and I had my hands behind my back. I remember looking up and seeing flames going all the way to the sky.”

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