On May 11, 1984, eight teenagers died in a fire at Six Flags Adventure Park in Jackson Township, New Jersey. The fire occurred in a popular attraction called the Haunted Castle, a series of darkened, winding passageways that contained a variety of displays—the rat lady, a hunchback, the spider room, and so on—designed to scare visitors. When the fire broke out, some visitors reportedly commented on how real the illusion seemed. The attraction was not sprinklered.
In the tangled aftermath of the fire, which included a court case that generated national headlines, a central question was whether sprinklers would have saved the lives of the teens who perished. In "Haunted by Fire," a feature story in the new May/June issue of NFPA Journal, writer Kathleen Robinson offers a fascinating look back at the conflicting answers that were provided to that question three decades ago, and introduces us to a new research project that attempts to answer the question definitively using state-of-the-art computing power and the latest in fire modeling. The researchers featured in the story will present their results at the upcoming NFPA Conference & Expo in Las Vegas.