Case Study: Station Nightclub Fire, W. Warwick, RI

Have you ever heard of the saying, "Those who don't learn from history will be doomed to repeat it"? This idea comes from writer George Santayana, and while it can carry a tone of foreboding, it also calls out to instruct us as well. The wise ones are those who look at history and learn the lessons it teaches. From history, we can learn what things work well and what things are mistakes that should not be repeated. This concept has direct application to fire safety. In America's history, there have been several devastating fires. As good students of the past, we can study those fires, see mistakes that were made, and take precautions not to do those very same things. One recent fire that has many lessons for us is the Station Nightclub fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island.

February 20, 2003, is a night that will stand out in the minds of all who live in the West Warwick area. On that night, a fire broke out in the Station Nightclub where 100 people died and 230 others were injured. A live band was performing in the club, and as part of their act, they set off fireworks in order to thrill the crowd. However, this staging area was not designed to handle explosives of that nature. When the fireworks were set off, their flames lit the foam insulation that was over and around the stage on fire. Soon, the terrified crowd witnessed the club turn into a blazing inferno as the flames moved from the insulation to the ceiling. This wall of smoke moved out towards the crowd, and in fear of their lives, they rushed to the door for escape. Tragically, many lives were lost in this terrible incident.

By studying this fire in hindsight, we are able to decipher several causes that contributed to the devastating effects of this tragedy. First, the decorative materials in the club were not fire resistant or flameproofed. Here in NYC, fire codes set forth by the FDNY require that decorations, hangings, drapes, and curtains be treated with flame repellents. If these items had received the proper fire retardant spray, the outcome of this fire would have been different - slowed down or possibly even prevented. Many lives would have been saved as a result.

Next, there is the issue of sprinklers to consider. This nightclub was not equipped with automatic fire sprinklers. This certainly would have aided in reducing the spread of the fire. Not only that, the Station Nightcub lacked sufficient exit signs to indicate to the attendees other places where they could safely evacuate. Because of this, the crowd, fearing for their lives, raced at once to one main entrance, which ended up creating a wall of people by the door. Finally, on that night, the facility had reached maximum capacity. Combined with the lacking signage and alternative exits, while the nightclub wasn't technically overcrowded, because of the sheer number of people, it was unlikely that all of them could have escaped safely given the existing setup.

At Manhattan Flameproofing, we are all too aware of just how important flameproofing is, and often, it is the very different between lives lost and lives saved. In the case of the Station Nightclub, proper fireproofing treatments of eligible items could have gone a long way to save many lives on that tragic night. As we look at fires from our history, thankfully, we have learned many lessons, and now, here in NY, flameproofing of items at public gathering places is now a law.

Please call us at Manhattan Flamerproofing so we can meet your flameproofing needs. We are happy to use our expertise to serve the Metro New York City area. We can help you set up a fireproofing plan to legally and safely protect your business location Call us today for a free, no-obligation estimate: 1-800-268-7993.