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Fire Prevention through Case Studies

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Monica Colby

on 20 April 2016

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Transcript of Fire Prevention through Case Studies

The Fire Service and Fire Prevention
General Motors Plan Fire 1953
Michigan. 34 acre open building; 20% protected, no roof vents, unprotected steel roof trusses
Cutting torch ignited conveyor drip pan oil
Fire hose streams penetrated 75 feet into the 866 ft wide building, when roof trusses failed melted roof asphalt added fuel to the fire
Casualties: 6 dead: 3 in-plant fire trapped, 1 city fire heart attack, 2 workers electrocuted during clean-up.

Restrictions on roof tar build up, sprinkler requirements, coating for steel frame trusses, separation of hazardous operations, automatic fire doors, NFPA 204-Guide for Smoke and Heat Venting
Our Lady of the Angel's School Fire 1958
Los Angeles Wildfire 1961
Brush fire around Sherman Oaks, 60mph winds, wooden roof shingles
3500 residents evacuated, 2,500+ fire fighters

16,090 acres, 420 houses and 190 other structures burned

Homes to be built with fire resistant shingled roofs.
MGM Grand Hotel Fire 1980
MGM Grand - Las Vegas - exception did not require sprinkler system
0700 fire in The Deli due to electrical wires in the walls
Lack of separation in the stairwells, elevators and seismic joints allowed rapid fire spread, smoke evacuation system failed
Most of the fire damage was on the 2nd floor. Most of the deaths on upper floors where smoke was dumped

Casualties: 84 dead, 654 injured including 14 FF

Las Vegas required a sprinkler retrofit in all casinos
First fire to bring to light that smoke kills most people in a fire
Federal Beef Processing Plant Fire
Chicago - grandfather clause allowed for no automatic fire alarm or sprinkler system, stairwells and doors combustible, interior walls coated with flammable sealant.
Manual alarm with 2 pull stations - only Mother Superior (principal) allowed to sound alarm for evacuation, 4 extinguishers 7 feet from ground to prevent accidental activation
Fire starts in basement in a cardboard trash barrel at about 1400, fire burns about 30 minutes before discovery.
Winecoff Hotel Fire, Atlanta 1913
"Fire Proof" 15 story building. Elevators and stairwells in the center, walls covered with burlap and wallpaper, no alarm system, no suppression system, no fire escapes.
Passed recent fire inspection
Elevator operator detected smoke on 3rd floor but didn't know floors 3-5 were fully involved and spreading upwards
Occupants made ropes, ladders to other buildings, and some jumped from the 1,500 degree F rooms
Fire department delayed by fallen bodies

Worst US Hotel Fire in the 20th Century - 120 dead

Changes to fire exit locations, requirement for fire suppression systems and fire alarm systems
Ringling Brothers Circus Tent Fire 1944
World's largest circus tent - 520 feet long - waterproofed with a mixture of 6,000 gallons of white gas and 18,000 pounds of paraffin. No extinguishers. 13,000 capacity-7,500 at time of the fire
Tent caught fire and it quickly spread. Flaming pieces of canvas dropped onto occupants as they evacuated

Bodies were piled 4-5 bodies high. Some of those underneath survived.
Over 169, 100 of them children, died in the fire

Codes for Grandstands, Folding and Telescopic Seating, Tents and Membrane Structures established
Cleveland Clinic Hospital Fire 1929
St. Anthony Hospital Fire 1949
Cleveland Clinic - Ohio. 8 year old, 4-story building
Fire started with X-Ray film stored in the basement (highly flammable in this time period)
Fire door failed - poisonous yellow smoke spread through building and prevented fire department entry
Stairways and exits blocked by people

121 died - mostly due to toxic fumes: Deadliest hospital fire in US

Safety film required for all x-ray film
General Slocum Wheel Boat Fire 1904
SS Morro Castle Fire 1934
Morro Castle - Havana to NYC; fire spread to electrical room, passengers could not find exits in the dark, many jumped and were drowned - washed up on shore
Ship engulfed in 30 minutes: 6 of 12 lifeboats launched

135 people were killed

Stronger standards for ships including drills, fire resistant materials, automatic fire doors, ship-wide alarms, generators, and fire fighting training for the crew
Automatic Fire Sprinkler Systems
1812 - 1890
Textile mills in 1812 England designed manual systems
First automatic system patent - 1872 in MA by Philip W Pratt
1874 - Henry S Parmalee invented first automatic sprinkler head and installed it on Pratt's system.
1881 - Franklin Grinnell patented an improved automatic sprinkler system design.
1890 - Grinnel designed a glass disk sprinkler head for his new system. It is still used today.
Great Fire of London, 1666
Fire started in a bakery
Buildings close together, combustible building materials
Unofficially killed 6, non-reporting of lower classes
13,200 homes and 87 churches - 80% of city destroyed

First American Fire Ordinance 1631
Governor John Winthrop of Boston Massachusetts 1631
Cannot build chimneys of wood
No thatched roofs
Code of Hammurabi
Babylonia 1750 BC
229: If a builder builds a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built falls in and kills its owner, then that builder shall be put to death.
Texas City SS Grandcamp Fire 1947
Ship hold has about 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate. 8:10 A.M. smoke is seen coming from the cargo hold.
Captain orders steam to be piped into the hold. Spectators note the water around the ship begins to boil. Volunteer fire fighters respond
9:12 A.M. the ammonium nitrate explodes creating a 15-foot shock wave felt almost 100 miles away.
leveled almost 1,000 buildings
blew 2 airplanes from the sky
Ignited nearby ships, refineries, and chemical tanks on shore
The exploding ship blew out 6,350 tons of steel shrapnel reaching supersonic speed
Rhythm Club Fire 1940
Natchez, Mississippi 11:30 P.M. a fire starts in front of the main entrance door.
Spanish moss decorations fuels the fire
Windows were boarded to prevent unauthorized entry
Exit door swung inward

209 died
Changes to required number of fire exits, door swing, and interior finishings
Ohio State Penitentiary Fire 1930
"Fire Proof" prison was under remodel to triple its capacity
Candle ignited oily rags on wooden scaffolding
Inmates noticed fire after being locked in cells
Warden, worried about a riot, refused release until the National Guard arrived 30 minutes later
Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire 1911
8-10th floors of Asch Building, NYC, about 500 workers
Smoking materials believed to be the cause
No fire alarm system, a fire escape was blocked by fire, a stairwell was locked, a fire escape collapsed
Used freight elevators and escaped to the roof
FD could not rescue above the 6th floor

146 dead
NFPA 101 (Life Safety Code) is developed
NYC Bureau of Fire Protection created
Iroquois Theater Fire 1903
"Absolutely Fireproof"
Arc light ignited a muslin curtain
Asbestos curtain doesn't close completely
Some exit doors covered by a curtain for aesthetics and had an unfamiliar locking mechanism
Inside swinging doors, dead end corridors, obstructed exits

Casualties - 602 dead, unknown injured
Code changes for exits, signage, seating, and panic hardware
First Volunteer Fire Department 1736
First Paid Fire Fighters 1679
Thomas Atkins appointed as the first fire chief following a large fire in Boston

First Union Fire Company - Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin
Bucket Brigade - homeowners required to provide a bucket
First American Fire Wardens 1648
Governor of New Amsterdam (NYC) appointed 4 fire wardens
Allowed to inspect every home for proper cleaning and construction of chimneys.
If fires started due to negligent cleaning or construction of chimneys, the Fire Wardens could issue fines to the home owners.
Great Fire of Rome 64 AD
Narrow streets, tall buildings, combustible building materials, common walled buildings

Emperor Nero created a new urban plan
Wider streets
Home height restrictions
No common walls
Homes built with fire resistant material
Billion Kia Fire 2011
Sweeney Building Fire
Great Chicago Fire 1871
Great Boston Fire 1872
Started in a warehouse.
Locked fire boxes, poor water supply, horses and men ill, gas lines, warship in harbor ignited
Fire spread from "fire proof" building to "fire proof" building
30 cities sent fire fighters - lack of standardization

Casualties - at least 30 dead including 2 FF
60 acres of buildings destroyed
Improved building codes and inspections
Great Peshtigo Fire 1871
Deadliest Fire in the US
Same day as Chicago - in Wisconsin and Michigan
Drought, hurricane force winds
Towns of wood and sawdust covered streets from local lumber industry
Baltimore Fire 1904
Automatic fire alarm at John E Hurst & Co bldg
Upon entry, found fire in elevator followed by an explosion
Lack of standardization of mutual aid departments
Attempt to use explosives for fire breaks - inexperience caused more harm than good

Fire destroyed 2500 buildings
Casualties - NO REPORTED DEATHS, unknown injuries
35,000 unemployed

National standard for fire hose couplings
San Francisco Fire 1909
7.9 earthquake ruptured gas mains
Fire attributed to 90% of all damage
Fire fighters used explosives to create breaks but may have caused more harm than good
Dynamite created more sparks, ignited nearby gas mains, fire jumped the breaks
Fire burned for 2 days
Casualties - 450 dead, unknown injuries
Estimated 300,000 homeless
Cocoanut Grove Night Club 1942
Boston FD inspected building 8 days prior to fire.
Confusing floor plan, combustible decor
Occupancy rating of 600, over 1000 people that night
Match ignites gauze draperies in basement Melody Lounge
Building completely involved in 5 minutes
Basement single exit stairwell blocked in 2 minutes by crowd and smoke and fire.
Exits were locked or welded shut, opened inward, or jammed. Revolving doors blocked by the crowd.
Lighting system failed.
Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire 1977
Southgate, Kentucky
Inspected 4 months prior
Deficient electrical wiring found including aluminum wiring
Over capacity - about 3,000 guests including a wedding party in the packed Zebra Room. They closed the doors behind them when they left.
The Station Nightclub Fire 2003
West Warwick, Rhode Island
Fire alarm system
No sprinkler - could have been required when building changed occupancies
Non-fire resistant soundproof foam boards were used to limit the noise level.
Some of the board obstructed a couple exits
300 building capacity - 462 occupants
4 working exits
No emergency lighting
Passed annual fire inspection
The band used pyrotechnics without a required permit.
In total, 692 casualties: 492 people died in the fire and 200 people injured.
200 people died at the 2 revolving doors

outward swinging doors
fire suppression systems in night clubs
Collapsible revolving doors
Number of exits
Battery operated emergency lighting
Exit access width
Construction and furnishing materials
Deficient wiring, only 17 of the required 28 exits, overcrowding, poorly marked exit pathways, lack of fire walls, combustible furnishings, no fire alarm system, no sprinkler system
297 casualties - 167 dead, 130 injured
sprinkler required in nightclubs and public assembly areas over 300 capacity.
Aluminum electrical wiring banned.
First fire where the scene was preserved for investigation.
9:01 P.M. - Staff members found the Zebra Room full of smoke. Called fire department.
Fire fighters on scene about 3 minutes after notification.
The Cabaret Room (larger assembly room) about 3X capacity for a show.
9:08 P.M. - Staff notify guests of the Cabaret Room and ask them to leave. Some leave, some stay.
9:10 P.M. - Fire spreads to Cabaret Room. Remaining guests push to the doors. Suppression efforts are focused here.
12:00 A.M. - Roof collapse. Rescue efforts cease.
NFPA standard for sprinklers systems in new clubs changed from 100 or more occupant load to 50 or more occupants.
Boston banned indoor fireworks
Rhode Island:
banned indoor pyrotechnics in smaller assembly occupancies
Graduated retroactive sprinkler requirements for nightclubs with 150 or more occupancy.
Eliminated "grandfather clause" for existing buildings
Low-level exit signage required in all nightclubs
Fire authorities could inspect and close clubs in violation of the code.
Sparks from the pyrotechnics ignited the soundproof boards.
Many occupants thought the flames were part of the act.
In less than one minute the stage was completely involved.
Fire alarm activated
Smoke and heat from the burning foam drove people to the front entrance, eventually blocked the front door.
Full building involvement in about 3 minutes.
About 330 casualties: 100 killed, about 230 injured.
Rapid City Fire Department
Fire Prevention - Authority Having Jurisdiction
New development review
Construction & alternation review & inspection
Special fire protection system plan reviews & inspections
Life safety system plan review and inspections
Building inspections of Health Care, Assembly, Residential, and Daycare
RCFD Fire Prevention
Monitor large assembly events for life safety issues
Ensure codes for tent and canopy use are followed
Fire at Black Hills Harley Davidson
Hurricane Katrina
and the rebuilding
of New Orleans
Interest in developing hand pumper
After much debate, city was rebuilt using the same type of building plans and spacing as before.
1940 London 2nd Great Fire
WWII bombing
Low tide and familiar problems
Buildings mostly of combustible materials
Drought and high winds
Started in a barn on DeKoven Street - drought and high winds, operational and communication problems

Casualties - 250 dead, unknown injured, 100,000 homeless
2,000 acres of city burned

Changed spacing and construction materials
Fire Prevention Week
Many drowned in the Great Lakes trying to escape
Casualties - estimated 1,500 dead, unknown injured
1,000,000 acres of farm, forest, and 23 towns
Some buildings built to current standards
Mostly same footprint
Rebuilding levys
Codes for Jails and Prisons in NFPA 101 created
Casualties - 320 prisoners dead, 130 seriously injured
Casualties - estimated 567 people but underestimated due to lack of bodies and reporting
Entire Texas City Volunteer Fire Department died
Fire burned for 3 days
General Slocum - St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church are on their annual picnic trip aboard the ship.
Fire is found in the forward hold compartment of the ship and strong winds push the fire through the ship.
Life preservers were faulty and rotten, moldy fire hoses ruptures under pressure, crew lowered life boats improperly they capsized, no fire drills
The Captain failed to maneuver the ship into ground to allow the passengers to escape - some believe he increased speed to reach the destination thus helping to spread the fire.

1030 passengers died - most all of the Little Germany neighborhood which ceased to exits in a few years

Standard inspections of NY Harbor ships
Federal and State regulations to test and improve safety equipment and destroy defective equipment
Swimming lessons for women
St Anthony - Illinois. Wood and brick, combustible laundry shoots, soundproofing and 2 wooden fire stairwells, oil cloth covered walls, cellulose fiberboard, no alarm system or automatic sprinkler system
Fresh paint on walls
Nun smelled smoke and raised the alarm, fire dispatched and Chief Engineer attempted to suppress fire with extinguisher
Lack of fire separation and plentiful combustible finishing made evacuation impossible for some.
Building was fully involved when fire arrived in 10 minutes

74 people killed including 11 infants in the nursery

Hospital and Healthcare code changes across the nation - fire barriers, smoke barriers, and fire resistant stairway enclosures
Fire fighters rescued over 160 children; 92 children and 3 nuns perished, unknown injuri

Illinois required retroactive compliance for all schools to current code
Nationally, codes were updated and over 1000 schools were re-inspected
Automatic fire alarms (heat detectors), automatic sprinkler systems, self-closing exit doors opening outward, window egress heights, 1-hour fire resistance rated walls, dedicated emergency lighting, separation of heating devices and combustibles, fire doors at stairwells, and more.
Two teachers on the 2nd floor evacuate after being unable to locate Mother Superior who is substituting for an ill teacher, they try to sound the alarm but it fails, the evacuate their class. One teacher returns and is successful in activating the alarm.
Combustible stairwell and interior finishing catches fire and spreads to the 2nd floor and attic via an unprotected pipe run - stairwell and 2nd floor hallway are quickly impassible
The custodian ran to a nearby business to call for the fire department, uses an outside stairwell to unlock a 2nd floor fire escape allowing that classroom to escape
Fire department arrives 4 minutes after notification after a delay due to poor directions and a locked gate to the building
Windows too high for many children to use, inadequate fire escapes from 2nd floor, some jumped
Welders on the roof, not using proper protection, start a fire, try to use extinguishers but the fire was in the facade.
Safe evacuation - many did not leave until there was a knock at their door though they heard the alarm
About a dozen reports of smoke inhalation
Re-booked conventions and guests to other properties for over a week
Monte Carlo Fire 2008
610 East North Street, Budget Inn
2 males
53 year old male
Cooking-related fire
603 Monroe
4 fatalities
51 year old female
3, 5, & 9 year old males
Child playing with fire
2114 6 Avenue
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