picture of the 1931 Alta Hotel fire

The 1931 Alta Hotel Fire

On September 27, 1931, at 6 a.m., Miss Nellie McSweeney, a Madera High School teacher frantically threw open the window of her room in the Alta Hotel and began to yell; the building was on fire. Chief John Brammer, who was directing the fire-fighting efforts, was the first to see the imperiled teacher. He shouted to fire Captain Joe Cappulutti who was on the roof. Cappulutti made his way carefully to McSweeney’s window and pulled the teacher from her smoke-filled room while the assembled crowd stood spellbound below. A moment later, Nellie was safe on the street and away from the fire. The conflagration had been started by faulty wiring in a storeroom. The Alta Hotel fire was finally contained without spreading to other buildings on Yosemite Avenue, but the $200,000 loss was staggering. Luckily, no life was lost, which can be attributed to the quick action of the fire department. (Madera ImagesBill Coate)


The hour was early, the Alta Hotel fire of 1931 brought large crowds to the northwest corner of Yosemite Avenue and C Street. It was the last day of the Madera County Fair, and many remembered that it had been just two years, almost to the day, when another fire broke out on Yosemite Avenue—once again on the last day of the Madera County Fair. The flames that year consumed the pioneer store of Rosenthal Kutner, then located on the southeast corner of Yosemite and E Street. (Madera ImagesBill Coate)

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