Today in fire history: fire in high-rise building results in three firefighter deaths

Blog Post created by ryan.quinn Employee on Feb 23, 2012

On Saturday, February 23, 1991, an early evening fire occurred in a 38-story building in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The fire extended to 9 floors, killed three firefighters and injured 24 others. 

The fire started on the 22nd floor and was caused by spontaneous ignition of linseed-soaked rags used for restoring and cleaning wood paneling.  The fire was able to grow significantly before being detected.  Vertical spread was ultimately stopped by the automatic sprinklers on the 30th floor that were supplied by fire department pumpers.

Significant factors affecting the outcome of this fire include:

    • The lack of automatic fire sprinklers on the floor of origin

    • The lack of an automatic early detection system

    • Inadequate pressures for fire attack hose lines due to improper settings of the standpipe pressure regulating valves

    • The early loss of main electrical service and the emergency power to the building

    • The improper storage and handling of linseed soaked rags and other associated combustibles


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