Wednesday, December 15, 2010

40-year Commemorations of the Pioneer Hotel Fire

December 20, 1970 was a day that continues to live in infamy in the Tucson Community. The Pioneer Hotel Fire occurred the night of December 20. The community is invited to attend a free and open to the public screening of “HOT PION” at the FOX Theater at 17 W Congress on December 19, 2010. Doors open at 6.00 p.m., and screening begins at 6.30 p.m.

“HOT PION” is a documentary tribute to the Tucson Fire Department commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Pioneer Hotel Fire and is produced by Al Pesqueira and his wife Elsa and directed by David Cheng. Chief Pesqueira is a retired assistant Chief of Tucson Fire and currently an assistant Chief with Northwest Fire.

The events of that evening and the impact on the Department led to the creation of this documentary. On Dec 20th, 1970 a deliberately set fire was ignited shortly after midnight and flames and smoke blazed through the upper floors of the hotel. Twenty-eight lives were lost that night and another victim later died from her injuries. Flammable carpeting, wallpaper and holiday decorations contributed to the heat of the fire and toxicity of the smoke. Lack of fire suppression without sprinkler systems, open stairwells that acted like chimneys, no fire doors to impede the flames and unnumbered stairwells made fighting the fire difficult and dangerous. More than 200 firefighters from around the region responded to the Pioneer. They rescued 85 occupants, untold number of staff and 650 people who were attending holiday gatherings in the downstairs party-rooms.
For 41 years, the Pioneer had been “the” place to go in downtown, for luncheons, conventions, banquets, parties and to conduct business. With the loss of the hotel, downtown has never been the same.

As a tribute to Chief Pesqueria and his wife Elsa for the vision and leadership shown in taking on the production, the Tucson Fire Foundation will host a business breakfast at El Parador Restaurant on East Broadway at 8:00 AM Monday December 20. During the complimentary breakfast Al Pesqueira's "Hot Pion" documentary film will be shown again. The event should last no later than 0915. The intent will be to get more people familiar with the Foundation as well as do some soft fund raising. The meal will be free but there will be envelopes on the tables for people to donate if they so choose. To RSVP for the breakfast please contact Tucson Fire Foundation Development Director Patty Vallance, Thank you