Eighteen years ago this week, I sat stunned as I watched the news reports on the fire that had occurred the night before in the nearby city of West Warwick, Rhode Island. How could a fire kill 100 people, given the codes in place at the time, and the strong enforcement of those codes? The fire at the Station Nightclub was one of the tragedies that motivated me to keep learning about codes, and to teach others – including the creation of this website (today is the 12th anniversary of my very first post).
An article in the current Building Safety Journal – Remembering the Station Nightclub Fire – details what went wrong at the Station Nightclub, lessons learned, and resulting code changes. The configuration of the club’s egress doors contributed to the number of fatalities:
The design of the front entrance corridor contributed to the loss of life, forcing concert-goers to push through an intermediate door that opened into a small foyer before finally reaching the main doors that led outside. The cramped foyer was reportedly designed to prevent people from entering the club without a ticket, but it proved disastrous when the large, panicked crowd clogged it in a desperate attempt to escape the blaze. People stampeded into the area through entrances from the bar and club. In the panic to get out, many fell and were trampled. Falling patrons jammed the main exit, trapping the people behind them inside. In the confusion, others fled blindly, finding themselves trapped in places like bathrooms with no means of escape. Three other exits were open and marked with lit signs in other parts of the club, but most people never realized they were there. An exit near the stage was quickly eliminated as the fire spread around the door, preventing escape.
As I’ve said before (and will likely say many more times)…to honor the lives lost in these tragedies, we must learn from them. The video below from the City of Mississauga’s series ‘On This Day in Fire History’ provides a good overview of what occurred at the Station Nightclub as well as some recommendations that could help save lives:
The next time you’re at a bar or nightclub (or any venue, really):
- Walk the layout of the building when you first arrive
- Look for two ways out of each room and identify marked fire exits
- Look for fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems
If you notice…
- Blocked or unmarked exits
- Fire hazards
- Anything that makes you feel unsafe
Image: Javier Zarracina/Globe Staff