This week we mark one hundred and eight years since the disaster and tragedy known as the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. On March 25, 1911, fire spread through the cramped garment factory on the 8th, 9th and 10th floors of the Asch Building in lower Manhattan. The rapidly spreading fire killed 146 workers, many of whom were young women.
The building only had one fire escape and this inadequate means of egress collapsed during the rescue efforts. Workers were crushed in the panic as the fought to open locked doors and only a few water buckets were available to douse flames.
After the incident, the labor movement and other groups created a public outcry over what was clearly a preventable tragedy. There was a renewed sense of urgency toward creating safer working environments and improving the rights of women and immigrants at this time as well.
According to OSHA, “the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire remained the deadliest workplace tragedy in New York City’s History” until the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. Read more from the 100th anniversary in NFPA Journal.
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