Circumstances behind Deaths of 100 Concertgoers at West Warwick, Rhode Island Nightclub 10 Years Ago Similar to Recent Brazilian Nightclub Blaze
Shortly after 11pm on Thursday, February 20, 2003 a fire at the Station Nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island left 100 dead and many more injured. This fire, which occurred 10 years ago, was one of the deadliest nightclub fires in the history of the United States.
The Station Nightclub was a one-story, wood frame building that regularly hosted live band performances. The fire started on stage while a rock band was playing.
Fire investigators determined the fire started when pyrotechnics used during the band’s performance ignited polyurethane foam that lined parts of the nightclub’s walls and ceilings. After ignition, the fire spread quickly along the ceiling and throughout the building. Within seconds, conditions in the building became deadly and flames were observed breaking through the roof in less than five minutes after the fire started.
Over 440 people occupied the building at the time of the fire. Most of the occupants tried to exit through the main front doorway. This doorway quickly became jammed with occupants trying to exit the building.
Moreover, the building was not equipped with an automatic fire sprinkler system.
"Because the fire and smoke spread so quickly and the building was not equipped with a fire suppression system, the building occupants just didn't have enough time to get out alive,” said SFPE Engineering Program Manager Chris Jelenewicz.
As a result of this fire, many building requirements were enhanced to make nightclubs safer from fire. Some of these requirements included provisions for automatic fire sprinklers in new and existing nightclubs and a requirement to have crowd managers present to assist with emergency building evacuations.
The Station Nightclub fire investigation was performed using cutting-edge fire protection engineering tools. After the station nightclub fire, fire protection engineers used computer fire models along with full scale fire tests to analyze how the fire spread through the building. Additional information about this investigation can be found in Fire Protection Engineering magazine at http://magazine.sfpe.org/fire-modeling/nist-station-nightclub-fire-investigation-physical-simulation-fire.
On January 27, 2013 a nightclub fire in Santa Maria, Brazil left over 230 dead. Similar circumstances such as overcrowding, inadequate building exits, indoor pyrotechnics, flammable wall finish and a lack of fire suppression systems played a role in the high number of deaths.
“The Station Nightclub Fire and the recent nightclub fire that occurred in Brazil remind us of the threat that is posed by fire and the importance of designing buildings that that keep people safe from fire,” said Jelenewicz.