Today in fire history: dance hall fire kills 63 people

Blog Post created by ryan.quinn Employee on Oct 28, 2011

On the night of October 28, 1998, a quick moving fire in a crowded dance hall in Gothenburg, Sweden resulted in the deaths of 63 people, and 180 injuries. A Halloween party was being held with approximately 400 people in attendance, but the maximum occupancy should have been 150 people. The hall where the party was being held had two exits located at each end of the hall, however because of the location of the fire, one stairway was impassable and was not used during the evacuation.

Shortly before midnight, the disc jockey opened the door leading to the southeast stairwell, and smoke from a fire in the stairwell came into the hall. The disc jockey called the fire brigade using a mobile phone, and then broke a window and jumped out of the building. Occupants of the hall became aware of the fire and attempted to evacuate from the northwest exit, but due to overcrowded conditions, this exit soon became blocked by bodies. Some occupants broke out windows and jumped from a height of 6 m (20 ft), these windows were 2.2 m (7.2 ft) above the floor, so it was difficult for occupants to use these windows to escape.

NFPA’s investigation found that the following were significant contributing factors in the loss of life in this incident

  • Overcrowding that exceeded the means of egress capacity
  • Lack of a fire alarm system
  • Ignition of combustible fuel load in a stairway

NFPA members can download the full investigation report, and all site visitors can download a summary in English or Spanish.

-Ben Evarts