Paula Levesque

Today in fire history: residential hotel fire resulted in 19 deaths

Blog Post created by Paula Levesque Employee on Mar 14, 2014

On March 14, 1981 an early morning fire in the first floor laundry room area spread to a nearby stairway Captureand trapped many of the 62 occupants of this 4-story residential hotel.  The fire resulted in the deaths of 19 tenants and in the collapse of a major portion of the structure.

The structural aspects of this building were contributing factors in both the fire spread and the number of fatalities.  These structural aspects include:

   •     lack of proper protection in hazardous areas,

    •     penetration of corridor walls by floor joists,

    •     improper enclosure of stairways, and

    •     combustible construction of stairways.

Although classified as a hotel, the occupants of this building ranged in age from the very young to elderly and, the physical and mental condition of some tenants probably effected the number of fatalities.

Individual tenant rooms were protected by single-station, battery-operated smoke detectors; however, a post-fire examination revealed that several of these detectors did not have batteries. 

NFPA members can download the full Fire Journal article Chicago Hotel Fire Those interested in more information about residential hotel fires can download  NFPA's Fires by Occupancy 2007-2011 Annual Averages report More information can also be found in  NFPA's Smoke alarms in US Home Fires Report