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85 Posts authored by: jrodowicz Employee

Early on the morning of December 13, 1977 a fire broke out in the Aquinas Hall dormitory at Providence College in Providence, RI. Ten female students died as a result of this incident.

 

Pictured here: The rear view of the dormitory where two women died after jumping from a window on the third floor, in the room where the fire started.
From Fire Journal v. 72, no. 4 (July 1978): 
“The primary fuel for the fire was highly combustible Christmas decorations that had been put up in the corridors. The extremely rapid fire development and dead-end corridor were the most significant factors that contributed to the multiple loss of life.”
For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.
The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.
Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.
On the morning of December 6th, 1917 the historic incident known as the Halifax Explosion occurred when two ships collided in the harbor. The temporary morgue that was set up after the event estimated that there were 2,000 fatalities and nearly 9,000 people were injured.
That morning, the Mont Blanc, a French steamer, was headed down the Narrows (a strait that connected Halifax Harbor and the Bedford Basin) towards the Bedford Basin. The steamer was carrying " bensol cargo on her deck, carboys of nitroglycerine in the forward compartments, TNT in midship, and oil in her ballast tanks." [Conlon] 
At the same time, the SS IMO, a Norwegian steamer was also heading down the Narrows towards the harbor faster than the 5-knot speed limit. The ships collided at 8:45am. The SS Imo hit the Mont Blanc on the starboard side. When the Imo pulled away from the Mont Blanc, the benzol was ignited by the sparks. The crew feared that the vessel would explode and abandoned the ship which struck the pier. [Fergusson] 
"Nineteen minutes after the collision, the Mont-Blanc's cargo erupted in a massive explosion, releasing energy equivalent to 2.9 kilotons of TNT." [Robinson] The explosion caused a shock wave and a 59 foot tidal wave. Many ships in the harbor were damaged or destroyed, piers were destroyed, and the city of Halifax and the town of Dartmouth suffered property damage and loss of life. [Fergusson] 
Everything in a 1.2 mile radius of the explosion was destroyed. 13,000 buildings, homes, factories, and schools were damaged or destroyed. 2,000 people died in the explosion or from exposure from being trapped in rubble during the blizzard that started after the explosion. The explosion caused over $35,000,000 in damage. 
Citations:
  • Conlon, Jacues. "The Great Halifax Disaster". 
  •  Fergusson, Charles Bruce "The Halifax Explosion." Nova Scotia Board of Justices (1971). 
  • Robinson, Kathie. "Looking Back: The 1917 Halifax Explosion" NFPA Journal, November/December (2015): 80. 
For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to theNFPA Research Library & Archives.
The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.
Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.

On November 28, 1942, a fire broke out in Boston's popular Cocoanut Grove Nightclub. 492 lives were lost due to the events that night. 200 people died within feet of the jammed revolving doors.

 

From Volunteer Firemenv. 10, no. 1 (January 1943): 
"The radios and newspapers reported the facts apparently responsible for the loss of life: (1) inadequate and locked exits, (2) quick burning decorations...The tragedy started when fire broke out in the basement in a cocktail lounge. The blaze is said to have been first noticed in an imitation palm tree after a bus boy struck a match for a light while replacing an electric bulb near the ceiling. However, other testimony leads to the question whether defective wiring may have had something to do with the start of the fire, or whether there may have been some other unexplained factor."
For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.
The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.
Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.

November 23rd, 1938 was a Thanksgiving Day to remember in Southern California. A series of wildfires in the hills and mountains surrounding Los Angeles caused an estimated $3,250,000 worth of damage. The various fires were battled by city, county state and federal forest agencies. 

Above: A wildfire sweeping down Las Tunas Canyon and threatening valuable estates near Santa Monica. The fire shown here is typical of those which swept through Southern California that Thanksgiving.
For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.
The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.
Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.
Seventy-six years ago today, an early morning fire at the Luongo’s Tap restaurant in Boston, MA took the lives of six firefighters and injured forty-five others.
The fire started in the ceiling above the kitchen on the first floor of the building owned by the Luongo family. The incident had escalated quickly to 3 alarms when the brick wall on the Henry Street side of the building collapsed on many of the firefighters on the scene.
For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.
The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.

On the evening of November 7, 1918, at 6:30PM, a fire started in the vicinity of the wing coating building of the Burgess Aeroplane Factory in Marblehead, MA. The Fire quickly spread to all of the buildings at the facility and to a boat yard nearby. The loss was almost absolute.
The wing coating building or “Dope Shed” was where wings were coated in a nitro-cellulose compound called “dope”. The wings were then left to dry in the open room. Ventilation was provided by a motor-driven airplane propeller that sucked “air from the main room and the space under the floor through registers directly out of doors.”
While the cause of the fire is unknown, three probable causes were put forth at the time:
  •  About a month prior to the incident, a fire was found in a 100-pile of coal in a fire-resistive bin in the boiler room. This coal was then carted outside and piled against the Wing Coating Building. It is possible that this coal may have heated once more spontaneously, and raised the temperature on the inside of the building as well;
  •  Oily rags may have spontaneously caught fire inside the building… although the foreman insisted that he personally collected all rags the previous night;
  • The fire may have been caused by incendiarism or arson. When a premature rumor spread through the area, employees left work at 2PM to celebrate Allied victory and the end of World War I (Germany did not formally surrender to the Allies until November 11, 1918.) The employees straggled back to the facility around 4PM, but were discharged for the day. Someone might have chosen to have a bonfire or the fire might have been set to show displeasure…
Because of the highly flammable nature of the materials and the events of the time, the real cause of the fire is unlikely to ever be known for sure.
For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please contact the NFPA Research Library & Archives.
The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.

On November 1st, 1966, twelve members of the El Cariso Hotshot Crew lost their lives while battling the Loop Fire in the Pacoima Canyon of the Angeles National Forest.

 

This photograph of the full crew was taken in October of 1966.
The fire was caused by a faulty electrical line at the U.S. Army’s Los Pintetos Nike Missile Site at 5:19AM on the morning of November 1st. With 40-60 mph Santa Ana winds pushing the fire downhill, suppression efforts “were focused on protecting the missile facility and establishing a control line south from that facility toward Contractors Point” (which was a key anchor point on the east flank of the fire).
By the time that the El Cariso Hot Shot crew arrived on-scene at 14:30, there were already multiple crews and several tankers working a large fire edge that had crossed the control line near Contractors Point. Line Boss Hugh Masterson briefed El Cariso Superintendent Gordon King with instructions to “leap-frog the Del Rosa crew and to cold-trail the fire edge if possible.” (For those unfamiliar with the term, cold-trailing is a method of using the extinguished edge of a fire as the fireline.) Masterson also said that “the main ridge could be used as an alternate if impossible to follow the burned edge.”
 
Superintendent King led his crew to a small bench below the south point of the ridge (see Point A on figure above.) They held there until they were able to determine whether it was possible to cold-trail the fire edge all the way down. King had a visual of the Los Angeles County crews that were working the lower edge and thought they could tie in with them. 
By about 15:30, the El Cariso Hotshots were fully committed and were cold-trailing their way down through the steep rocky chimney canyon (approaching Point E on the figure above.) About the same time, The Los Angeles County crews that were working west along the bottom of the slope had stopped by a deep gully. “The gully was adjacent to and just below the chimney canyon.”  Because of a lack of radios among many of the crews (including the El Cariso Hotshots), there was no communication between the two groups, but they were able to see each other.
“According to these same observers, sometime between 15:35 and 15:45 the fire started to cross the bottom of the gully. Within the next 5 to 10 minutes the fire crossed the gully, made a run upslope to the bottom of the chimney, and then flashed very quickly up the length of the chimney. The steep rocky terrain made it very difficult for firefighters to move toward the previously burned area. Terrain conditions combined with the rapid fire spread resulted in all members of the El Cariso Hotshot Crew being burned over as they worked from this stand location and up several hundred yards in the chimney above.”
The Wildland Fire Leadership Development Programhas set up a Staff Ride website where participants are put in the shoes of the men who were at The Loop Fire, as it is known. It serves as a Case Study and an opportunity for people to learn what happened and ask questions about decision-making.
For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.
The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.Library staff is available to answer research questions from members and the general public.
The NFPA Headquarters in Quincy, Massachusetts welcomes many visitors from all over the world. In the main lobby resides a beautiful antique fire engine that always attracts attention.
This hand-pump fire engine was built by the Hunneman Company (started by one of Paul Revere’s apprentices) for the Houghs Neck Fire Station in Quincy, Massachusetts. It was delivered  on July 16, 1844.
Hunneman No. 244 “Granite” No.2 at NFPA Headquarters in Quincy, MA
The town of Quincy donated the engine to the National Fire Protection Association in 1981, when the organization made Quincy its new home.
For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.
The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.
Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.

The NFPA Research Library & Archives maintains a large collection of gifts and historic fire artifacts that the organization has received over the years. For example, here's an antique wood water pipe we've acquired:

 

Wooden water pipes (similar to the one seen here) were used in the first U.S. waterworks system in our beloved city of Boston starting in 1652. Due to the many fires in typical wooden structures and chimney fires, this installation was imperative to saving lives. Firefighters drilled holes in the main pipelines, sunk smaller wood pipes into them, and used fire pumpers to extract the water. A small piece of wood known as a “fireplug” was then inserted to keep the water stored.

For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives. NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic. Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.
This week, North American schools, communities, and fire departments are observing Fire Prevention Week (FPW). Since 1922, NFPA has sponsored the public observance of FPW. In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed FPW a national observance, making it the longest-running public health observance in our country. During this week, children, adults, and teachers learn how to stay safe in case of a fire. Firefighters provide lifesaving public education in an effort to drastically decrease casualties caused by fires.
FPW is observed each year during the week of October 9 in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which began on October 8, 1871. The incident killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,000 structures, and burned more than 2,000 acres of land.

For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives. NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic. Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.
Fire Prevention Week stampNext week is Fire Prevention Week! Since 1922, the NFPA has sponsored the public observance of Fire Prevention Week.
 In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed Fire Prevention Week a national observance, making it the longest-running public health observance in our country. During Fire Prevention Week, children, adults, and teachers learn how to stay safe in case of a fire. Firefighters provide lifesaving public education in an effort to drastically decrease casualties caused by fires.
Fire Prevention Week is observed each year during the week of October 9th in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which began on October 8, 1871, and caused devastating damage. This horrific conflagration killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures, and burned more than 2,000 acres of land.
For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.
The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic. Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.

With Fire Prevention Week right around the corner (October 7-13, 2018), we thought we would take the opportunity to highlight something from our FPW Archives. Fifty years ago, when Sparky the Fire Dog was still just a puppy, NFPA designed and distributed book covers as part of their Fire Prevention Week campaign materials. These covers not only provided kids with a groovy way to protect their books, they also offered helpful tips on how to stay safe in the event of a fire.

 

 

For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.


The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.
Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.

On the night of September 20, 1929, a deadly night club fire killed 22 people and injured over 50 more in Detroit, Michigan.


Background


The Study Club was a popular cabaret on the edge of Detroit's downtown district that offered dining and dancing. There's evidence it also served liquor, which was illegal at the time under Prohibition. The club opened about a year before the fire and had a reputation for being "patronized by an outwardly respectable clientele" (Fire Engineering955).


The club had several fire hazards. Along the walls and hanging from the ceilings were highly flammable decorations, including wooden lattice work, hanging oak leaves that had been covered with wax or lacquer, and cloth draperies. About a year prior to the fire, the building department ordered that a new fire escape be installed before the club could open. However, the proprietor was able to get approval to open the club by assuring officials he would install a fire escape shortly. However, that never happened.

 

 

Escaping the Fire

When fire broke out around 1:30 a.m. on Friday, September 20, 1929, the Study Club was in full swing with a large after-theatre crowd. It's difficult to know how many people were in the club when the fire broke out, because few people who escaped without injuries reported their presence at the club. Estimates range from 75-175 people, well below the club's maximum capacity of 250. The fire originated from a drapery at the bottom of the stairs on the first floor. The drapery covered a walled partition that blocked the stairs leading down to the basement. The cause of the fire was never determined, but the most likely cause was a match carelessly cast aside by a patron coming down the stairs.

 

The fire was seemingly first noticed by a man and a woman on their way out around 1:30 a.m. As the couple passed the coat room, the man told the attendant, "Did you know there is a fire back there, girlie?" The girl rushed down the corridor, saw the fire at the foot of the stairs, and ran to the kitchen to get a pail of water. But by the time she returned, the flames had spread too much for her to handle, so she ran out of the building yelling "Fire!" The chef in the downstairs kitchen heard her cries and tried to go upstairs to warn patrons on the second floor, but the flames had already begun making their way up the stairs, so he ran out the door as well. Everyone on the first floor, who were mostly employees, had no trouble escaping. But on the second floor, panic quickly ensued, as "it was only a matter of seconds from the time the fire was first noted until flame and smoke were belching into the dance hall area" (NFPA Quarterly122).

 

As flames came up the stairs and into the front of the dance hall "with a lightning-like rapidity" (NFPA Quarterly122), most patrons ran toward the back of the room, where the only opening was a doorway to a small dressing room used by entertainers. People rushed into the tiny 5x13 room, thinking there was a fire escape. Unfortunately, the only possible means of escape from the dressing room were two windows, one of which was blocked off. Still, apparently a few people escaped through these windows. At least one person jumped 22-25 feet down into the alley below, and reportedly, a woman slid down a telephone pole several feet from the windows. However, soon "bodies were inextricably wedged together in this small space, making further escape by this route impossible" (NFPA Quarterly 123).

 

Next to the dance hall entrance were swinging doors that opened into the upstairs kitchen, where there was a service stairway. While some reports indicate a number of people escaped by this route, the NFPA Quarterly stated this seemed "very questionable in view of the location of the opening," since "the flame and smoke coming from the main doorway soon cut off access to the kitchen door." Not to mention, most patrons wouldn't have been aware of this stairway.

 

One employee rushed to the door where the fire escape was supposed to be, had it ever been installed. He found the door locked, but broke through the glass to jump the 20 or so feet to the ground below. It's possible a few others escaped this way as well, but the NFPA Quarterly concluded it was unlikely anyone could have reach the fire escape door after the first few moments because of how quickly the flames spread to that side of the room.

 

 

Fighting the Fire

 

There was a fire station just a few blocks away from the club, so the fire department responded within two minutes of the alarm sounding at 1:32 a.m. Firefighters had no indication that anyone was inside, because the electricity had gone out early in the fire and most of the windows were either covered by decorations or plastered off. It wasn't until firefighters made their way upstairs and into the dance hall, extinguishing flames along the way, that they realized victims were inside. Thirty-five to forty bodies were trapped in the dressing room, all dead or unconscious except for one girl who was wedged under several bodies.


Of those the firefighters found inside the building, 18 were dead at the scene, largely due to suffocation and crushing. Four others died later in hospitals, bringing the total deaths to 22. At least 45 cases of serious injury were reported, but presumably a number of others who escaped were also injured and left the site without reporting it.

 

 

Impactful Developments

 

Half a dozen city and state departments conducted an investigation of the fire. They concluded that the fire, which began as negligible, grew out of control so quickly because of highly flammable drapes and decorations, along with a draft caused by the front door being left open as people escaped. This draft was further fueled by a fan on the ceiling of the dance hall. It was determined that the club had undergone a routine fire inspection by the Fire Prevention Bureau on May 31, almost four months before the fire. No recommendations were made at that time, because the building had two means of exit, which is all the building required.


The day after the fire, Detroit officials met to discuss how to prevent a tragic night club fire from happening again. In Detroit at the time, it was the recreation department that issued licenses to operate night clubs. The city's fire marshal wrote in his report of the Study Club fire that night clubs "have never come under the jurisdiction of the Fire Prevention Bureau in relation to obtaining a certificate of approval from the Fire Department…before a license is issued" (Fire Engineering 956). He stated it was the building department's responsibility "to determine the adequacy of exits or other means of egress" (Fire Engineering 956) before a license could be issued. In the Study Club's case, the building department had in fact ordered the removal of the old, unsafe fire escape and the installation of a new one prior to opening. However, because the owner agreed to install a new fire escape soon, the building department signed off on the recreation department issuing a license.
In their meeting the night after the fire, Detroit officials unanimously agreed to require night clubs to pass an inspection and receive approval by the Fire Prevention Bureau before the recreation department would issue a license to them. In the week that followed, the city fire marshal "made a flying tour of the city's night resorts" (Fire Engineering 956) and ordered remedial fire prevention measures at some of them, such as the removal of draperies or other inflammable materials or the addition of a fire escape.


Resources

 

  • Daly, William Jerome. "Draperies in Night Club Proved Serious Life Hazard." Fire Engineering (October 16, 1929): 955-956.
  • Morris, R .J. "The Study Club." The Slate (undated).
  • Moulton, Robert S. "The Study Club Fire." Quarterly of the National Fire Protection Association 23, no. 2 (October 1929): 115-125. (Available through the NFPA library)

 

For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.


The NFPA Research Library & Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.


Library staff are available to answer reference questions from members and the general public.


*Special thanks to Laurel Wilson for her work in researching and writing this synopsis of The Study Club Fire.

On September 15, 1936, a fire destroyed the historic Mt. Lowe Tavern. Located on Mt. Lowe in California, the wreckage was estimated to be worth about $250,000.

 

 

Since this fire was the third incident to threaten the structure in as many days, an immediate investigation was started to determine whether the origin was of an incendiary nature. The official finding of the Deputy Sheriffs’ office was that “the fire started in the pantry from a short circuit in a compressor.”


For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.

The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.
Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.

Since 1997, the Fire Protection Research Foundation has organized SUPDET®, an annual symposium which brings together leading experts in the field of fire protection engineering for the purpose of sharing recent research and development on techniques used for fire suppression, detection, and signaling. These events are generally attended by a variety of fire protection professionals, such as engineers, researchers, insurers, designers, manufacturers, installers, and AHJs.

 

 

This year, the weather was unwilling to cooperate with our planned 2018 SUPDET® symposium. Due to the likelihood of Hurricane Florence’s impact on the region later in the week, the decision was made to cancel part of this week’s SUPDET® program.

 

 

The Detection portion of the program was held as scheduled on Tuesday, September 11-to Wednesday, September 12, ending at 11:30 am on September 12.


Tuesday started with a keynote by Chris Jelenewicz, the Technical Director at SFPE. His presentation “Research Needs for the Fire Safety Engineering Profession: The SFPE Roadmap”. The program continued with presentations that included research on smoke alarms, pre-ignition detection algorithms, code requirements and new technologies.

 

 

The workshop planned for the afternoon of Wednesday, September 12 and the Suppression portion of the program scheduled for Thursday, September 13 and the morning of Friday, September 14 has been cancelled.


We know that the speakers have put in a lot of effort to develop their presentations and papers, so the Fire Protection Research Foundation is currently looking into options for possible webinars to cover both the workshop and suppression presentations. The Foundation will follow up on this as well as on refund options as soon as the details are worked out.


For more information, please visit the SUPDET page on NFPA.org.

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