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Film documents 1970 Pioneer Hotel fire

'Hot Pion' commemorates blaze that killed 29


The tragic Pioneer Hotel fire of 1970 will be revisted by a documentary premiering Sunday at the Fox Theatre.

"Hot Pion: The Pioneer Fire Documentary," a short film produced by Albert Pesqueira, an assistant chief for Northwest Fire District, will be shown almost 40 years to the day after the Dec. 20, 1970 blaze.

Pesqueira was a rookie firefighter when he responded to the fire in the middle of the night.

The 11-story building, heralded as fireproof when it was constructed in 1929, lacked a sprinkler system and had open stairwells.

Some of the 29 victims jumped to their deaths to escape the flames. Most died of carbon monoxide poisoning. The fire remains the most deadly in Tucson's history.

Louis Cuen Taylor, then a 16-year-old, was convicted of arson and murder and sentenced to life in prison. He still maintains his innocence, and is working on another appeal.

After the fire, Tucson tightened its building safety codes and purchased a 150-foot ladder for the fire department.

'Hot Pion' — named after the only letters lit on the Hotel Pioneer's sign during the fire — includes period footage of the blaze and interviews with people who were at the scene.

The Tucson Fire Foundation will show the documentary again at a fundraising breakfast at El Parador restaurant Monday at 8 a.m.

If you go

  • 'Hot Pion: The Pioneer Fire Documentary' premiere
  • Fox Theatre, 17 W. Congress
    Dec. 19, 6 p.m.
  • free
  • Tucson Fire Foundation breakfast
  • Featuring 'Hot Pion' screening
  • El Parador, 2744 E. Broadway
  • Dec. 20, 8 a.m.

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