Sponsored by the
U.S. Fire Administration
On February 20, 2003, a tragic fire occurred at the Station Nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island, where 100 patrons died and approximately 200 were injured. The band that played before an estimated crowd of 450 people used pyrotechnics for special effects purposes during the opening performance. The pyrotechnics ignited highly-flammable polyurethane foam insulation lining the wall and ceiling of the platform area where the band was performing, resulting in the deadly fire.
Following the fire, an intensive investigation into the cause of the fire was conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).7 During the course of the investigation, Federal investigators examined all relevant model building and fire codes; other incidents with similar circumstances in places of public assembly; fire detection and suppression systems that were part of the structure; materials used in the construction and interior finish of the building; points of egress and process; and the fire department response to the incident. Federal investigators were able to develop new information, and confirmed published reports as to the initiating event, the reason for the rapid spread of the toxic smoke and fire, the difficulties encountered by patrons during egress, and the mass casualty situation confronted by the fire department.
The direct contributors to the large loss of life were found to be (1) the close proximity of the highly-flammable polyurethane foam to the pyrotechnics that started the deadly fire, (2) the Station Nightclub was not equipped with a sprinkler system, which resulted in the inability to suppress the fire during its early stages of growth, and (3) the inability of the exits to handle all of the occupants in the short time available for the fast-growing fire.The investigation also concluded that strict adherence to the 2003 model codes available at the time of the fire could have helped prevent the tragedy. Changes made to the code subsequent to the fire made them more effective.
Code changes - this event led to implementation of sprinklers in places of assembly.
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