The Station Nightclub Fire West Warwick, Rhode Island. The building of the Station Nightclub was constructed in approximately 1946. Many restorations and repairs were made to the building since the time of construction by different owners to fulfill their business needs. The building was a wood-frame construction with wooden shingles on the exterior walls that also included a flat roof, but the interior walls surrounding the stage were staffed with sound proof polyurethane insulating foam. Windows were located on the north side of the building and on the east side of the front entrance.
All of the windows had security bars on them (this could be an issue! ). The building had only four doors; a front main door, a bar side exit door, a platform exit door, and a kitchen exit door. The building was equipped with a fire alarm; however it was not connected to a nearby fire department alarm office. At the time of the incident, the building wasn’t protected by any sprinkler or extinguishment systems. The fire began at 11:07 PM, on Thursday, February 20, 2003. The band Great White was the main event of the night.
After only half a minute into their performance, the pyrotechnics ignited the sound insulation (polyurethane foam) that was around the stage. The ignition of the polyurethane foam built up enough heat to ignite the wooden panels above the stage spreading the fire throughout the building. At first, the audience thought that the flames were a part of the show. Seconds after the audience realized that the fire was unplanned, they headed toward the main entrance trying to escape, not knowing that three other exits in the building existed.
One hundred people lost their lives that day. Serving a population of 30,000 residents, the West Warwick Fire Department is first due on all fire/rescue and EMS calls for the 8 sq. mile district of West Warwick. West Warwick Fire Department operates out of four stations with a total of four engines, one ladder truck, two ambulances, and one special hazards unit. When West Warwick Fire Department was dispatched to the address, a multiple casualty incident was put into effect due to the seriousness of events.
They had to request for mutual aid from the encompassing jurisdictions for any apparatus and ambulances available. The end result was a combination of 583 fire, EMS, and police personnel including 57 ambulances (BLS & ALS) and two buses for transportation and shelter. The Local, State and Federal agencies were called to investigate the Station Nightclub fire incident and they found many issues. The polyurethane foam that was on the interior walls was the major factor in the Station Nightclub fire. It was easily ignited and also contributed to a faster fire spread within the building.
According to NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, the interior finish is required to be Class A or B for general assembly areas with occupant loads of more than 300. It has been calculated that the number of occupants at the Station Nightclub was around 440-458 people, obviously well over this limit. The ignition of polyurethane foam gave out a magnitude of smoke and heat in such a short period of time and created mass chaos, thus resulting in a crowd-wide panic towards the initial entry point. Also NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, section 13. 2. 3. 6. states that the main entrance/exit shall be of a width that accommodates one-half of the total occupant load and shall be at the level of exit discharge or shall connect to a stairway or ramp leading to a street. If the owner of The Station Nightclub would have inspected the main point of egress and made sure it complied with the code, many lives would have been spared that night. The pyrotechnics was the main ignition source. The building owner should have had the approval and authorization for use of pyrotechnics. The NFPA 1126, Standard for the Use of Pyrotechnics before a Proximate Audience, section 13. . 2 Open Flame Devices and Pyrotechnics, states that “no open flame devices or pyrotechnic devices shall be used in any assembly occupancy unless otherwise permitted”. The owner of the Station Nightclub failed to comply with the regulations, which resulted in such dramatic incident in the history of U. S. Since the building of Station Night club was constructed approximately in 1946 and under different owners it was renovated into a restaurant and nightclub. At that time sprinklers would not have been required to be installed.
Back in that period of time, sprinkler systems were not cost effective and technology was evolving. Later in the building’s life-p, fire damaged the building before this incident. The owner at the time of the fire damage reconstructed the building and no sprinkler systems were installed. At the time of the Station Nightclub incident in 2003, the building didn’t have any sprinkler system whatsoever. In the 2003 edition of the model codes, sprinklers would have been required if the building was a new construction. The Nightclub owner wasn’t aware of codes and regulations on the sprinkler systems.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology engineers arrived at scene to develop a report on the Station Nightclub incident. Experiments and studies by the NIST team have shown that if the building was equipped with a sprinkler system, they would be able to control the fire, thus minimizing the number or chance of casualties. The NIST report also states that at the time of the incident, the nightclub had fire extinguishers, but they were not strategically placed throughout the building. So the building had the equipment, but no one knew where it was.
NIST report also determines that even with fire departments first arriving unit at seen (less than five minutes), they could not have saved the structure in that situation. After all this being said, I think that the main reason that contributed to fire deaths was the occupant load and the point of egress. Most of the people rushed toward the main door resulting in serious chaos. People were crashing on top of each other and jamming the main entrance, limiting their escape. NIST report studies showed that one third of the people escaped through the windows and the sun room.
From looking at the map of the building, it shows that the occupancy had only four exits including the main entrance. One of the exists was in the kitchen area, probably only known to the employees. This makes only three exits available for many people to escape, although the crowd probably only knew of the main entrance. After such a tragic incident, the NFPA developed a series of required codes and standards for public assembly occupancies. The reinforcing of the codes and regulations also came with them being easily accessible online not only for the fire personnel, but also to the public.
If the West Warwick Fire Department did their inspection they would have noticed that the owner is not up to codes and regulations on the sprinkler systems in a public occupancy. Not only would they have found a lack in sprinkler systems, but they would have found a few other problems concerning the safety of the building. It was fire department’s priority to make the owner aware of the problems and provide accurate information to make him conscious that the building was not safe. Also, the West Warwick Fire Department should have done the follow up on the items that they were the most concerned about.
The fire department should have stated the risks of not having the sprinkler systems installed given the history of that building. I find it crucial to have thorough and solid preplans of your district. Knowing your response area will help you prevent fires, period. From all of the investigations made by NIST and NFPA reports, they concluded that by adapting to the additional changes to model codes and regulations, most importantly making them known and strictly enforcing them, the safety of the public occupancies can be strengthened.
It was sad to see the deaths of 100 people that day, but the only way regulations and safety can be updated is when people get hurt. Hopefully, this tragedy will help fire departments learn a lesson and put emphasis on preplanning. Work cited: http://fire. nist. gov/bfrlpubs/fire08/PDF/f08033. pdf http://www. nist. gov/el/disasterstudies/ncst/upload/StationNightclubEmergencyResponse. pdf http://www. nfpa. org/assets/files/pdf/research/case_study_nightclub_fires. pdf
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