This week marks the 75th anniversary of the deadliest hotel fire in US history, which occurred at the Winecoff Hotel in Atlanta, on December 7th, 1946. Although this building was advertised as “absolutely fireproof” the fire resulted in the deaths of 119 people, and injured at least 90 others.
The design of the Winecoff Hotel and the effects of the fire on the means of egress illustrate the benefits of enclosed stairs and fire doors, which were not present in the hotel at the time of the fire. The 15-story building was originally built in 1912, and the building codes allowed the hotel to have only one exit stairway. Although the fire department arrived within 30 seconds of the time they were notified of the fire, the single stairway, which was open and did not have fire doors, was impassible. Entrance doors to the hotel rooms had operable transoms, which allowed the fire to spread.
The video below is a good summary of what happened in this fire, and helps to underscore the value of the fire protection features that are required by code today.
“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” ~ George Santayana