Thirty-two children are safe-and-sound today after being rescued from their burning school building by a Good Samaritan. The students, ages six to 11, were trapped when fire broke out on the second floor of the David Duke Elementary School.
A passerby, John Kelly, 82, saw smoke coming from the building and heard cries for help.
“I saw black smoke coming from the window and then I saw the kids. I just ran inside and up to the second floor. They were all in one room. I locked the door and stuffed my coat under it. We were trapped. I could hear the fire outside the door and knew I had to do something. That’s when I remembered that I was wearing my polyester double-knit slacks.”
Kelly opened a window, took off his slacks, and nailed the waistband to the windowsill.
“I had each kid sit on the window sill, grab the elastic pant leg, and stretch down to the ground. All the kids got out, but I lost a beautiful pair of slacks,” said Kelly, solemnly. “You can’t find them any more.”
Polyester double-knit slacks were all the rage in the 1970s because of their affordable durability. They are, however, extremely flammable and several people were badly burned when their slacks caught fire.
“That material, once ignited, burns at over 2,000 degrees. Water and CO2 are useless against a PDNS fire,” said Stuart Denhup of the FBI’s Fire Investigation Division. “This was the first clothing material made entirely from petroleum, but then the oil crisis came. That signaled the death knell for polyester double-knits. That and the fact that they have a half life of 1000 years.”