Do you know about the Rhythm Club Fire in Natchez, Mississippi? It is yet another example of how egress doors can impact life safety during a fire. From the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF):
The Natchez Rhythm Club fire was the second deadliest building fire in the U.S. when it took 209 lives in 1940. Of course it made headlines, but it faded quickly from the spotlight. It’s a major disaster most people have never heard about. The case has been made it has been overlooked because the fire occurred in a Black community in the deep South. Still, future fire protection engineers are now learning from this tragedy. This episode of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s Safety INsight looks closely at important lessons still relevant 82 years later.
From the Wikipedia page about the Rhythm Club Fire:
21 of the 24 existing windows had been boarded up to prevent outsiders from viewing or listening to the music, and as a result the crowd was trapped. Some survivors were able to get out the front door or through the ticket booth, while others tried to press their way to the back door, which was padlocked and boarded shut. Upon realizing their limited options to escape the fire, many victims attempted to break through the corrugated steel walls of the building, but were unsuccessful. People broke through windows using their hands and chairs, but the windows became jammed. Blinding smoke made movement difficult. Survivors remembered the burning moss falling from the ceiling and forming a barrier between the dance floor and the exit, with the moss igniting clothing and hair of victims and survivors. The front door was the only exit, and the doors swung inward. Escape from the main entrance was made almost impossible as flames blocked the entrance, pushing the crowd towards the back of the club.
This video from the NFFF shares some of the history surrounding the fire, and how the lessons learned can be applied today:
For more information about the Rhythm Club Fire, read this article from Firehouse.com: A Nightclub, A Fire…And a Generation Vanishes, or the Fire Investigation Report from NFPA. There is also a 30-minute documentary about the fire.
Thank you to Charles Anderson for sharing the link to this video.