Today in fire history: airport terminal fire results in 17 deaths and 62 injuries

Blog Post created by ryan.quinn Employee on Apr 11, 2012

On April 11, 1996, a fire in an occupied passenger terminal at the airport in Düsseldorf, Germany, killed 17 people and injured 62.  The fire began when a welder working on expansion plates in a roadway above the terminal building ignited the insulation used in the void above the ceiling on the first level.  The smoke and flames spread throughout the first level, then the second level through unprotected open stairwells and escalator openings.  Seven of the victims died in elevators, eight more died in a VIP lounge on the third level, one in a lavatory, and one in an unknown location.  Factors determined to have contributed to the loss of life and property damage in this incident include:

  • Failure of workmen to take adequate precautions during welding operations
  • The presence of combustible insulation in the ceiling void above the lower level of the terminal
  • A lack of automatic suppression systems in the void and in the occupied area of the terminal
  • Unprotected vertical openings that allowed the fire and smoke to spread to the upper levels
  • The transmission of erroneous information over the voice annunciation system during the first 10 minutes of alarm activation
  • The ability to shut down the public address system in the lounges.  (This system was also used to transmit the emergency voice announcements.)
  • Inadequate means of egress capabilities from the VIP lounge
  • Two occupied elevators that opened directly into the fire area

NFPA members can read the full investigation report, and all site visitors can read a summary of the investigation in English, Spanish, French, or German