Merilyn C. Hiller, 21, student, rescued Marjorie E. Triestman, 20, and other persons from burning, Cortland, New York, November 21, 1948. At night fire broke out in a room in the rear of the ground floor of a three-story frame sorority house and quickly spread to adjoining rooms and up a rear stairway. Miss Hiller, Miss Triestman, 22 other young women, and a housemother occupied rooms on the upper floors. Wearing pajamas only and carrying a towel, Miss Hiller went from her room in the front of the second floor into a hallway which extended to the rear of the floor and with difficulty reached a landing at the head of a stairway descending to a lobby at the front entrance of the house. Only the rear stairway led to the third floor. With the towel Miss Hiller tried to protect her face from dense smoke spreading in the hallway from the rear stairway. Heat was intense. Visibility was extremely poor, electricity in the house having been cut off; but Miss Hiller could see the glow of flames rising in the rear stairway. As she was about to escape by the front stairway, moans and cries of other young women, some of whom were entering the hallway, attracted her. Remaining near the head of that stairway, Miss Hiller in a loud but controlled voice for several minutes called attention to the location of the stairway and urged others to keep calm and orderly. Miss Triestman and at least four others were guided by her voice to the stairway. Miss Hiller led Miss Triestman to the stairs, and Miss Triestman and two of the others descended and escaped through the front entrance. A sixth young woman who stumbled in confusion was aided to the stairs by Miss Hiller and also escaped. The last two guided by Miss Hiller’s voice descended the stairs part way but returned to the second floor when frightened by the heat of the steps on their bare feet. Flames spread in the hallway from the rear end to within five feet of the landing of the front stairway. Partially overcome, Miss Hiller in some manner got to a point where she was burned by the flames; and she then returned to her room, smashed a storm window, and lost consciousness. Firemen extinguished the fire 20 minutes after Miss Hiller had begun giving aid, and she was found lying inside the door of her room and was taken from the house, as were all the other occupants who had not escaped. Three died later of burns and smoke inhalation. Miss Triestman was affected by smoke; another young woman Miss Hiller had aided was burned; and a third, who had returned to the second floor, leaped from a window and sustained serious injuries and burns; but all recovered. Miss Hiller was burned seriously, and she injured a finger of one hand. She was hospitalized for two weeks and recovered.
41560 – 360141560-3601