Just as Utrecht had entered its first slumber last Saturday night, it was partly waken up again by the shrill clear sound with changing pitch of fire bells in the brisk night air, here and there and everywhere in the surroundings of where the fire took place.
And people threw their clothes on and trotted onwards through dusk and puddly streets in the direction of the red glow of fire that was widely lighting the dark background of a heavily clouded sky.
But when they arrived the fire had nearly died away already and they saw nothing but a few flaring flames, smoke and some sparks flying around, not being worth the trouble, the little home had burnt out already.
And disappointed they went away, many for who a fire at night is fun, a treat, disappointed that they had to walk all the way just for this.
Nevertheless in this short space of time, a short hour maybe, a whole family of decent folks was already destroyed, stricken by heavy blows of sad fate.
At the beginning of the Weerdsingel Opposite Side a small dyke extends to the left, the Gruttersdijk, a neighbourhood which is rather snappy, but later on, a bit farther away, a collection of absolutely miserable huts and dumps, gloomy, stinking little houses, often even occupied by several families together. Even a little further than that there is the Frederikshofje, which is a more comfortable area again, neat little houses with little gardens in the front. On one of the parcels of this Frederikshofje, occupied by the cigar maker Van Gorkum, the fire had raged, approximately at half past twelve.
People gave us the following report about that:
Inmediately after the discovery of the fire, the flames were bursting out of window and door and neighbours could not enter the property anymore. The fire was started by filling up a burning lamp with paraffin, by woman Van Gorkum, causing the contents of the lamp to explode. The man was not at home when the fire began. At first people standing near the property had assured that the occupants had left the house, while the mother who found herself with the neighbours, was not able to give any information, just as Van Gorkum, when he, returning home, approached his house. Later on though it turned out that two children were missing, namely a boy of 6 and one of 12 years old, while one of the three saved children had received burns in his face and on both hands.
Unfortunately but not surprisingly the fire brigade found the two corpses downstairs after extinguishing the flames.
Both children are supposed to have suffocated already at the start of the fire. From the beginning on the light construction of the property and the wooden staircase were easy prey to the flames, causing the whole house to be blazing and flames bursting out of the roof, when the senior fire officer arrived at the spot very soon, as his home happened to be in the proximity.
Attempts by him and a few persons present to force their way into the property were not to succeed.
The fire was extinguished in short time with two jets connected to the waterworks and the jet of a booster.
The first premium for extinguishing equipment was obtained by fire hose no. 10, the second premium for extinguishing equipment by the manual fire hose no. 4.
O, thou disappointed being, who went away in a sulk because thou saw too little that you liked, can thou imagine the grieve of the parents, can thou put yourself in the horrible position of this family?
Deprived of everything, home and furniture. Two children burned, the charred corpses amongst the rubble!
And the eldest one, who was going to become a schoolteacher next year, had sung along just a few hours earlier, in Tivoli at the rehearsal of the festival cantata.
Yesterday during daytime many people went over to see the burned little house to shake their heads pittyingly. And three tins had been hanged for the deprived family. In the evening a fair amount of money had already been collected this way, as could be expected, for who else but the underprivileged apply with more love the high principle: "Help one another".
From: Utrechtsch Provinciaal en Stedelijk Dagblad, Monday 29 August 1898.