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65 Posts authored by: normacandeloro Employee

A fire of incendiary origin occurred at the Ozark Hotel in Seattle, Washington, on March 20, 1970 and claimed the lives of 20 occupants.  Fire investigators determined that a flammable liquid had been poured and ignited on the first-floor level of two open stairways.  The fire quickly spread throughout the building rendering the stairways and corridors useless.  As a result, 20 occupants perished, either from smoke inhalation or from injuries suffered when jumped from the upper stories.


NFPA members can download the Fire Journal  article 

January 1971 Fire Journal article

 Those interested in more information about hotel and motel fires can download

NFPA's Hotel and Motel Structure Fires report and fact shee

t More information on intentional fires 

NFPA's report on Intentional Fires

On March 17, 1996, a fire occurred in a single-story board and care facility in Laurinburg, North Carolina.  The fire was caused by sparks from a faulty electrical receptacle which ignited bedding materials in one of the resident rooms.  Smoke spread into other areas when cross-corridor doors were opened during evacuation and fire suppression.  Eight residents died in the blaze.

According to NFPA’s investigation, the following contributed to the loss of life in this incident:

  • Occupants’ inability to evacuate before untenable conditions developed in the fire area
  • Room doors that remained open due the lack of door self-closing devices
  • Lack of automatic sprinklers
  • Staff members’ inability to enter the fire area due to smoke and heat


NFPA members can read the full investigation report.

An early morning fire on March 14, 1981 resulted in the deaths of 19 tenants, and injuries to 13 other persons (including two police officers).  The fire began in a first-floor laundry room and quickly spread to a nearby stairway, which trapped many of the 62 occupants of the four-story residential hotel.


The Chicago Fire Department first received a telephoned report of smoke at 2:59 a.m.  When they arrived at 3:02 a.m. they found the rear stairway of the hotel fully involved.  Rescue operations were made difficult by the extensive fire involvement, thick black smoke, and the loss of the rear stairway, however, firefighters were able to rescue 20 occupants from the upper floors by means of ground ladders.


Several factors contributed to the severity of this incident:


    • Lack of adequate protection in hazardous areas
    • The hotel reportedly served as a residence for patients in area drug and alcohol detoxification programs, people undergoing this treatment may not be capable of self preservation during a fire emergency
    • Performance of detectors and alarm systems was inadequate, and many room detectors did not have batteries
    • Lack of adequate corridor fire protection


NFPA members can read the Fire Journal article.

On March 9, 1984, a fire occurred in a crew cabin of a ship on a daily cruise approximately 5 miles off the coast of central Florida.  The fire was discovered at approximately 7:30 p.m. and officers on the bridge immediately mobilized the ship’s fire brigade.  Crew members attempted unsuccessfully to extinguish the fire; while the attempts were being made, the captain alerted the passengers and returned the ship to a terminal at Port Canaveral.  When the ship reached land, the ship’s crew assisted all 744 passengers in safely disembarking the ship, meanwhile, land-based fire crews boarded the ship and began fire suppression operations.

Fire suppression operations took 40 hours, and caused 90 firefighter injuries.  Six of the injured were transported to local hospitals for treatment.  Six factors were identified during the investigation which contributed significantly to the magnitude of this incident.

    • The fuel loading of the cabins in the area of initial fire involvement
    • The failure of fire station hoses onboard the ship when fire crews attempted to place these lines in service
    • The incompatibility of the ship’s fire station (standpipe) hose connections with land-based fire department hose couplings
    • The lack of a detailed contingency plan for firefighting operations onboard ships docked at Port Canaveral
    • The lack of training of the land-based fire department units in shipboard firefighting tactics
    • The failure to extinguish the fire in its incipient stage


NFPA members can download the full investigation report.


On, March 4, 1991 a fire of accidental origin occurred at Crystal Springs Estate, a board and care facility, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Nine of the building's 25 elderly residents died during the fire.  In addition, eight other residents and five firefighters were injured.


The single-story masonry and wood structure, with two separate partial basements, was divided into three fire compartments by noncombustible walls, and the corridor openings in these walls were protected with fire doors.  A fire alarm system using heat detectors as the primary initiating device protected all rooms, closets, and attic spaces.  Manual pull stations and smoke detectors located next to the fire doors were also connected to this fire alarm system.  The activation of any device in the fire alarm system would initiate alarm chimes throughout the building and would send a signal to a central monitoring station.  A separate alarm system of interconnected corridor smoke detectors was also provided and only initiated a local alarm upon the activation of any detector on the system.


An electric motor in a ventilation fan apparently malfunctioned, overheated, and ignited combustible materials in the attic above the east wing.  The fire burned for an undetermined period of time, spreading in the attic space above several rooms before causing the ceiling to collapse in a residents' lounge.  At approximately 12:35 a.m., smoke entering the occupied space activated the corridor smoke detection system, and staff began their emergency procedures.


The fire also breached a wall between the wing of origin and a dining room and spread across the combustible ceiling in the dining room.  Because there was no fire door between the dining room and the corridor in the west wing, smoke and fire extended to that corridor.


The first firefighters on the scene found the dining room fully involved in fire with heavy smoke and some fire extension in corridors of both wings.  They started simultaneous rescue and suppression operations.  All survivors were rescued during the first half hour, and fire suppression operations continued for approximately 4 1/2 hours.  In addition to the nine fatalities and eight injured residents, the fire destroyed two of the building's three wings.


The following factors appear to have significantly contributed to the loss of life:


    •     Heat detector system in the attic did not provide early warning,


     •     Fire separations did not prevent the spread of smoke and fire,


     •     Combustible ceiling in the dining room,


     •     Lack of adequate firesafety training for staff and residents.


NFPA members can download the full investigaion report Board and Care Facility Fire. Those interested in more information about board and care fires can download NFPA's Structure Fires in Residential board and Care Facilities report and fact sheet.  For more information on firefighter injuries download Firefighter Injuries in the United States

On Saturday, February 23, 1991, an early evening fire occurred in a 38-story building in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The fire extended to 9 floors, killed three firefighters and injured 24 others.


The fire started on the 22nd floor and was caused by spontaneous ignition of linseed-soaked rags used for restoring and cleaning wood paneling.  The fire was able to grow significantly before being detected.  Vertical spread was ultimately stopped by the automatic sprinklers on the 30th floor that were supplied by fire department pumpers.


Significant factors affecting the outcome of this fire include:

  • The lack of automatic fire sprinklers on the floor of origin
  • The lack of an automatic early detection system
  • Inadequate pressures for fire attack hose lines due to improper settings of the standpipe pressure regulating valves
  • The early loss of main electrical service and the emergency power to the building
  • The improper storage and handling of linseed soaked rags and other associated combustibles


NFPA members can read the full investigation report and all site visitors can read a summary in English or Spanish.

On Sunday, February 18, 1990, a natural gas explosion and subsequent fire in a motel in Hagerstown, Maryland caused the deaths of four guests and minor injuries to ten others.  At approximately 5:20 a.m. two guests reported the smell of gas to the hotel desk clerk.  The clerk then confirmed that there was a gas leak, called the gas company, and attempted to stop the gas that was escaping.  Neither the gas company nor the clerk called the fire department, and the building alarm was not activated until after the explosion occurred at about 5:30. Hagerstown Fire Department investigators determined that the fire was accidental, and the result of a leaking natural gas valve on a hot water heater.


Three of the four fatalities occurred in rooms affected by the explosion, and the fourth victim was found in a corridor about 35 feet from the area of the explosion.  Even though the building was damaged by the gas explosion and subsequent fire, the interior fire-rated walls maintained tenable conditions sufficiently long to allow over 90% of the occupants to escape without assistance from firefighters.  NFPA members can download the full investigation report  and all site visitors can download a summary in Spanish .

On February 13, 1975, a fire occurred in a nine-story hotel in Peoria, Illinois.  Due to the efforts of local police and firefighters, 119 guests, many of whom did not speak English, were evacuated and there were no fatalities.  Many guests in the hotel were from around the world, attending a construction equipment conference.


At around 1:00 a.m. one of the guests returned to his room on the seventh floor of the hotel from a party on the ninth floor of the building.  He then turned on his TV set and lay down on his bed.  The next thing that he remembered was waking up to find his mattress on fire.  He attempted to get the mattress out the window, but he was unable to get it through.  He then left the room, leaving the window and the door to the room open.  He then left the building without notifying anyone about the fire or sounding an alarm.


The Peoria police were patrolling the area around the hotel due to the large number of out-of-town visitors at the conference.  Several police were nearby when they were notified by a woman outside the building.  The officers then notified the fire department and entered the building to begin to evacuate guests.  They eventually charged standpipe hose lines in the hotel and used them to control the fire while they notified guests.  The fire department arrived shortly thereafter and began to evacuate guests using aerial ladders, as well as engaging in fire suppression.


The presence of police officers in the immediate area of the hotel, as well as their fire fighting and rescue actions likely saved many lives.  NFPA members can read a full report .

On February 8, 1996, a fire occurred in a board and care facility in Shelby County, Tennessee, which caused the deaths of four residents.  The fire was caused most likely by improperly disposed smoking materials.  Smoke from the apartment of fire origin spread to other apartments through open doors.  The facility was 20 years old, and all areas of the building were of wood-frame construction.  All areas in the building had various fire protection provisions including smoke detectors, fire alarms, fire doors, and door self-closing devices.  However, self-closing devices for many apartments, including the apartment of fire origin, had been removed or deactivated allowing doors to remain open.  Based on NFPA’s investigation and analysis of the fire, the following factors were considered as having contributed to the loss of life in the incident:

  • Improperly disposed smoking materials
  • Lack of automatic sprinkler protection
  • Ineffective response of some staff members
  • Failure of occupants to respond effectively to operating fire alarms
  • Room doors that remained open due to the deactivation of door self-closing devices and chocks


NFPA members can download the full investigation report.


Fire fighters from four engines and two truck companies were committed to suppression operations on the third floor and a medical sector had been established outside the building.  While suppression operations were in progress, the fire suddenly increased in magnitude and spread into several areas beyond the room of origin.  Two of these fire fighters were killed, and four fire fighters were injured with two sustaining critical injuries.  A subsequent search of the building revealed that one patron had also died in the fire.  This person was found in a stairway between the sixth and seventh stories, and he had died of smoke inhalation.  Four civilians were also injured.

Indianapolis Fire Department investigators determined that the fire was accidental in nature.  The fire occurred when an electrical problem caused the ignition of wood paneling in a third-story bar.  The investigators also determined that the sudden increase in the fire magnitude, which killed and injured the fire fighters, occurred when combustion gases that were trapped in a concealed space entered the room and caused a flashover in the room where the fire fighters were working.  The fire rapidly spread to other areas on the third and fourth stories, and smoke spread throughout the building.


The following factors contributed significantly to the loss of life at the Indianapolis Athletic Club:

    •      Lack of an approved automatic sprinkler system in the room of fire origin,

    •      Lack of automatic fire of smoke detection system in room of fire origin,

    •      Combustible interior finish,

    •      Unprotected penetrations in wall and ceiling assemblies,

     •      The existence of concealed spaces which were not readily observed by fire fighters during suppression operations.

NFPA members download the NFPA full Fire Investigation report


On the evening of February 1, 1991 a US Air, Boeing 737-300 collided with a Skywest, Fairchild Metroliner at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).  The B-737 that was involved was configured to carry 128 people including both passengers and crew; however, only 89 people were aboard at the time of the accident.  Twenty-two people on the B-737 died, and all 12 people aboard the Fairchild Metroliner were killed by the collision and subsequent fire.

The NFPA dispatched a staff member to participate in the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) investigation of the accident.  The NFPA’s focus was on the aircraft rescue and fire fighting (ARFF) for the purpose of providing lessons learned from this accident to the NFPA Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Committee, the Aviation Membership Section of the NFPA, and the fire community.

NFPA members download the full NFPA Fire Investigation report.

On January 29, 1985, a fire occurred on the first floor of a boarding home in Washington D.C.  The fire, thought to be caused by smoking materials, involved a couch in the facility’s smoking room and a small amount of other materials, before the smoke detectors alerted occupants and automatic sprinklers controlled the fire.  Although smoke had spread throughout most of the structure, occupants were able to escape with fire department assistance, and the only injuries were minor in nature.


This fire was significant because it demonstrated the value that an automatic sprinkler system can have on improving the level of protection in an occupancy with an identified fire problem – boarding homes.


NFPA members can download the full investigation report .

On January 29, 1985, a fire occurred on the first floor of a boarding home in Washington D.C.  The fire, thought to be caused by smoking materials, involved a couch in the facility’s smoking room and a small amount of other materials, before the smoke detectors alerted occupants and automatic sprinklers controlled the fire.  Although smoke had spread throughout most of the structure, occupants were able to escape with fire department assistance, and the only injuries were minor in nature.


This fire was significant because it demonstrated the value that an automatic sprinkler system can have on improving the level of protection in an occupancy with an identified fire problem – boarding homes.


NFPA members can download the full investigation report .


Only two persons were able to escape from the Pennsylvania House Hotel when flames quickly spread through the building on January 16, 1972, leaving 12 others dead.  The hotel building was typical of many old, small community hotels built to serve the travelers of 75 years ago -- hotels that for the most part have been replaced by motels as transportation has changed through the years.  The owners of older buildings have attempted to keep a hotel business going, with the result that many of the hotels have changed in character, serving as residential hotels for local citizens rather than lodging a transient population.  In this case the building served as a residence for the owner and his family as well as a combination residential-transient hotel.

NFPA members Download this May 1972 Fire Journal article

6a00d8351b9f3453ef01bb07d43cf3970d-450wi.jpgOn January 11, 1988 at 8:19 p.m., the New York City Fire Department was notified of a building fire at East 50th Street, Manhattan.  Arriving fire fighters found a fire involving several first floor rooms with trapped occupants on the floors above.  Before the fire was under control, the fire department had sounded five alarms bringing over 200 fire fighters to the scene; four civilians died, 13 fire fighters were injured, and another nine civilians were also injured.  Approximately 70 people were rescued by fire fighters.


The mixed-use building was a fire-resistive, 115 ft x 100 ft, 10-story high-rise structure.  The first two floors had commercial areas, and floors three through ten contained apartments.  A single-station, battery-operated smoke detector was provided in each apartment.  Other fire protection equipment included a standpipe system in one of two enclosed stairways, fire extinguishers, and a partial wet-pipe automatic sprinkler system protecting a storage room in the basement.


The fire originated in a first floor office and, before the fire department arrived, spread to other areas on that floor.  Combustion products spread to floors above because the first floor access doors for the two enclosed stairways were held open with wedges.


Coordinated suppression and rescue operations restricted the number of fatalities and injuries and limited the extent of damage to the building.


The following factors appear to have contributed significantly to the severity of this fire and to the loss of life:


    •     Building modifications that increased the fuel load;


    •     The absence of automatic detection or suppression systems;


    •     Stairway doors at the level of fire origin that had been blocked open, allowing heat and smoke to spread throughout the building.   



NFPA members, Download this Manhattan, NY report

For NFPA statistical data, Download High-Rise Building Fires

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