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65 Posts authored by: normacandeloro Employee

ffHistoryBW.jpgAt 9:32 a.m. on Saturday, January 10, a natural gas explosion killed 20 people in Fremont, Nebraska, and destroyed the Pathfinder Hotel and six adjacent buildings.  The exact cause of the explosion is unknown, but the natural gas leak that preceded the explosion was caused by an underground pipe separation.  The odor of the natural gas was first detected about four hours before the explosion.  However, hotel employees were unable to reach gas company personnel to request assistance for nearly two hours, even though they used emergency telephone numbers.

The fire that resulted from the explosion spread vertically through inadequately protected elevator shafts, stairways, and pipe chases.  The incident was remarkably similar to the Paramount Hotel disaster that occurred in Boston on January 18, 1966.   During that explosion, the Paramount Hotel was severely damage when flame from the subsequent fire traveled through non-fire stopped pipe shafts and inadequately protected elevator shafts.

NFPA members Download this July 1976 Fire Journal article For NFPA statistical data Fires Starting with Flammable Gas or Flammable or Combustible Liquid


On 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 High-Rise Building Fires

6a00d8351b9f3453ef01bb07cdeb97970d-450wi.jpgOn December 31, 1986, a mid-afternoon fire at the Dupont Plaza Hotel and Casino in San Juan, Puerto Rico resulted in 97 fatalities and over 140 injuries.  The NFPA analysis of the data indicates there were four major factors contributing to the loss of life.  Those factors are:


   •     Lack of automatic sprinklers in the south ballroom (room of origin).


   •     Rapid fire growth and spread.


   •     Lack of automatic fire detection systems/ inadequate exits for the casino.


   •     Vertical opening between the ballroom and the casino levels.


Additional findings are:


   •    Smoke movement to the high-rise tower by way of vertical penetrations.


   •     Hotel tower occupants were not aware of a severe fire.



For the full NFPA Fire Investigation report.

Shortly before 5:00 p.m. on December 20, 1965, a fire of suspicious origin started in the balcony of the auditorium in the second and third stories of the Jewish Community Center in Yonkers, New York.  The evidence suggests that someone, using a flammable liquid as an accelerant, set a fire at one end of the balcony, beside the stage.   Within a few minutes, the fire had spread to involve large plastic panels and other combustibles in the balcony.  Some occupants of the upper floors of the building took refuge in various rooms in the building or on outdoor balconies.  One of these rooms had its door open, and all 12 people in this room were killed.


In the early morning hours of December 13, 1977, a fire occurred at Aquinas Hall, a dormitory at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island.  This fire resulted in the deaths of ten female students who were resident s of the fourth floor.  The primary fuel for the fire was highly combustible Christmas decorations that had been put up in the corridors.  Physical evidence indicates that the fire started near a fourth floor sleeping room.

Aquinas Hall was of mixed construction with a majority of the building being protected by non- combustible construction.  It's a four story building with the first floor being used for class rooms and a chapel, and the second, third, and fourth floors occupied as girl's dormitory space.  Interior finish was primarily non-combustible with exception of the concealed fiber board ceiling above the suspended non-combustible mineral tile.  Fire alarm system which consisted of manual pull stations and three combination rate-of-rise, fixed temperature heat detectors.  The heat detectors were located at the top of each stairway.

The most significant factors which led to the multiple life loss in this fire were the presence of highly combustible Christmas decorations, and the long dead end corridor near the room of fire origin.  Contributing factors were the absence of an early warning fire detection system, no automatic suppression system and poor compartmentation of the room of origin, as indicated by the fire spread even though the door was closed.

For the full NFPA Fire Journal article.  To learn about Home Christmas Tree and Holiday Light Fires and Home Structure Fires that Began with Decorations





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At 3:56 p.m. on Friday, December 6, 1985, a natural gas explosion occurred at the River Restaurant in Derby, Connecticut.  It appears that a gas main may have been damaged during the refilling of a sewer excavation.  Before anyone became aware of the leak, escaping gas accumulated in the basement of the restaurant and came in contact with an undetermined ignition source.  The explosion killed six people in the restaurant, injured 12 other occupants, and completely destroyed the building housing the restaurant. Three people who were not in the restaurant were also injures by the explosion. 


For the full&#0160;NFPA Fire Investigation report. To see the most recent statistical information on eating and drinking facilities&#0160;download the NFPA Structure Fires by Occupancy 2007-2011</p>







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On Sunday, November 25, 1990, a fire occurred at a flammable liquid tank farm supporting Denver’s Stapleton International Airport.  Eight of the farm's twelve storage tanks contained jet fuel A totaling almost 4.2 million gallons.  The fire was considered as accidental in nature, and it burned for approximately 55 hours.  Seven tanks were destroyed or damaged, and over 1.6 million gallons of jet fuel was consumed.  There were no reported fire fighter or civilian injuries as a result of this incident.

At approximately 9:22 a.m., the Stapleton control tower saw smoke in the area of the tank farm and called the airport fire department.  Both airport and structural fire suppression crews responded to the reported location.  Upon their arrival, airport fire fighters found a large pool fire in a pit containing piping and valves.  In addition, there was flaming fuel which was apparently under pressure spewing high into the air.  They were able to knock down the pool fire using Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) but were unable to extinguish the fire involving the spewing fuel.  Each time the airport fire fighters stopped agent application for replenishment of water or agent, the fire would burn back and increase in intensity.  When the structural fire fighters arrived, they discharged water through master streams and ladder pipes to protect exposures. In addition, the structural fire fighters also laid hose lines to the aircraft fire fighting vehicles to maintain uninterrupted water supplies to these vehicles.


For the full&#0160;NFPA Fire Investigation report.&#0160; Download&#0160;NFPA's statistical reports Fires at Outside Storage Tanks and LP-Gas Bulk Storage</p>





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On Wednesday, November 23, 1983, a fire occurred at the Travel Master Inn Motel located at 225 W. First Street in Dayton, Ohio.  The motel was a rectangular, four-story building, with basement, of mixed construction.  The ground floor contained a registration and lounge area, and the upper floors contained 66 guest rooms.

Earlier in the evening, on November 23, the building's fire detection and alarm system sounded throughout the building.  The hotel's desk clerk deactivated the system and went to the guest room portion of the building to determine the source of the alarm.  The clerk discovered a trash can fire on the third floor exit corridor and extinguished it with a portable fire extinguisher.  The detection system was not reactivated due to the residual smoke present in the corridor.  Approximately two and a half hours later, a third floor guest notified the desk clerk of a fire on the third floor.  The fire department was notified at 4:01 a.m.

First arriving fire fighters observed fire and heavy smoke conditions showing in the top two floors at the north end of the building.  In addition, an estimated 25 guests were located at windows on all the guest room levels awaiting rescue.  The fire ultimately resulted in one fourth-floor fatality, in over 20 persons being injured and in an estimated $700,000 property damage.

Fire investigators have listed the cause of the fire as undetermined; however, they determined that the fire originated at the north end of the third floor exit access corridor.

The following are considered to be major factors contributing to the loss of life and injury in this incident:

    • The location of the area of origin in the exit access corridor and the lack of automatic extinguishment in the incipient stage.

    • The presence of highly combustible interior finish materials in the exit access corridor.

    • The deactivation on the hotel's automatic fire detection and alarm system.

    • The lack of prompt notification of the fire department. 


For the full&#0160;NFPA Fire Investigation report.</p> </div> </div>





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On Sunday, November 20, 1994*, *at approximately 3:41 pm, a series of explosions occurred at a furniture manufacturing facility in Lenoir, North Carolina.  There were two fatalities and four injuries as a result of this incident.  The North Carolina Special Bureau of Investigations determined that the nature of the incident was accidental and not criminal.

The incident occurred in the particle board manufacturing portion of the plant.  Raw dust was taken in and refined into finished sheets of particle board that was used in the construction of furniture in other portions of the plant.  This manufacturing line was the sole source of particle board for the plant's furniture-making operations.

Based on NFPA's site inspection and subsequent analysis, it was determined that there were three potential sources of ignition: a stray piece of metal in a grinding machine that sparked, a leak in an overhead oil line that atomized and subsequently ignited, or a natural gas leak in the vicinity of the thermal transfer unit that was ignited explosively.

Following the initiating event, four explosions occurred throughout the facility.  These explosions were caused by dust in the facility that was placed into suspension in the air by each prior explosion.  The dust in suspension then came into contact with an ignition source and ignited explosively.  It was observed that there were large amounts of dust throughout the facility, and there were minimal efforts to control electrical ignition sources.

Two employees were killed and four were injured.  Damage to the facility covered 139,000 square feet.  Production will be interrupted for over nine months.  An estimate of the property damage is not available.  However, much of the building, as well as the production equipment, will have to be replaced.


For the full&#0160;NFPA Fire Investigation report. To read about NFPA&#39;s statistical report on&#0160;Fires in U.S. Industrial and Manufacturing Facilities.




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On November 13, 1997, at approximately 6:00 a.m., a fire occurred in an occupied, four-story apartment complex in Bremerton, Washington. Four residents died in this fire, and twelve were injured.

The complex was comprised of 142 units, of which approximately 130 units were occupied at the time of the fire. The main portion of the complex was a U-shaped building. The ground floor, which contained storage areas, laundries, parking areas, and utility rooms, was made of noncombustible construction. The upper three floors contained the apartment units and were constructed of wood studs covered with fire-rated gypsum wallboard on each side. However, the exterior face of the walls was covered with 5/8-in. thick plywood that was not fire-rated. A two-story building occupied the open portion of the U and was built in a similar style as the main portion of the complex.

    • Lack of automatic fire sprinklers

    • Combustible exterior wall construction

    • The door to the apartment of fire origin being left open after the fire was discovered

    • Inadequately protected means of egress

    • Lack of proper fire separations in the combustible void space

    • Lack of a complex wide fire alarm system incorporating automatic detection


To read the NFPA full Investigation&#0160;Download this Bremerton, WA report&#0160;</p> </div> </div>


On the morning of November 12, 1992, an accidental fire destroyed most of the Dole Fresh Vegetables plant in Yuma, Arizona, and resulted in a loss estimated at $16 million.  The building was a noncombustible structure with light-gauge metal exterior walls and roof components.  Polyurethane foam insulation was sprayed over the interior surfaces of the exterior walls and roof.  In addition, wood-frame walls were constructed throughout the building in front of the foam insulation to permit washing of interior surfaces.  Automatic sprinklers were installed and provided protection in the occupiable spaces throughout the facility.

On the day of the fire, the construction of an addition to the facility was near completion.  It appears that welders, who were installing process equipment, may have accidentally ignited combustible materials including the sprayed-on foam insulation inside a wall assembly.  The fire spread in a combustible concealed space between the wood-framed interior walls and the metal exterior walls.  Sprinklers had not been installed in the combustible concealed space.  As a result, the sprinkler systems that operated were not able to control the fire spreading within the walls. 

Early in the incident, the fire appears to have also spread into the occupiable areas of the addition still under construction.  The sprinkler systems in this area were not operational.  As a result, the fire rapidly grew in the addition, and fire spreading from this area into the salad plant helped to overwhelm the operational sprinkler systems in the salad plant. 

Based on the NFPA's investigation and analysis, the following significant factors contributed to the loss of property at the Dole Fresh Vegetables plant:

  •  The presence of concealed combustible spaces in which the fire could readily spread.
  •  The ignition of combustible materials within a concealed space.
  •  The lack of sprinkler protection in the concealed combustible spaces.
  •  Sprinkler systems that were not operational due to ongoing construction activities.

To see the full report Download this Yuma, AZ report  For more information on NFPA Large-Loss Fires in the United States.






!|src=|alt=November51978|style=width: 450px;|title=November51978! Twelve hotel guests died November 5, 1978, when a fire attributed to arson raced through the 120-year-old Allen Motor Inn in which a large-loss-of-life fire could have been predicted.&#0160; The three-story hotel, labeled a &quot;fire trap&quot; by a county official, had open wooden stairs, no fire protection features except for portable fire extinguishers, and no fire alarm system.&#0160; Despite recent attempts by officials to enforce safety codes, the hotel owner had been granted three separate time extensions to make repairs, and the hotel had continued in use with major fire safety violations until the November 5 fire took the lives of more than half of its occupants.&#0160;


To see the full report&#0160;Download this March 1979 Fire Journal article. &#0160;To read NFPA&#39;s statistical information on arson fires &#0160;Download Intentional Fires report</p>






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On Thursday evening, October 28, 1998, a fire occurred in a nightclub in Gothenburg, Sweden.  A Halloween party was being held in the second floor hall, and it was estimated by officials that there were approximately 400 people in attendance.  According to personnel from the fire brigade, one of the survivors reported that there were so many people that it was impossible to even dance because people were crowded shoulder to shoulder.  The area had an occupancy rating of approximately 150 people.

Once the fire was extinguished, about 20 bodies were found in a small room on the northwest end of the building.  It appeared that these victims were attempting to flee the fire and were not able to make it through the door at the northwest end.  They then attempted to take refuge in the room, but were overcome by the smoke.  One officer reported that the bodies were piled approximately three feet deep in this room. A total of 64 people died in this fire, mostly from smoke inhalation.  Their ages ranged from 14 to 20 years old.  150 people were injured.  The fire brigade estimated that they rescued 40 to 50 people.

Based on the NFPA's investigation and analysis of this fire, the following significant factors were considered as having contributed to the loss of life and property in this incident:

    • • Overcrowding

    • • Lack of a sprinkler system

    • • Lack of a fire alarm system

    • • Fire ignition through arson

    • • Combustible storage in a stairwell 


To read the full report&#0160;Download this Gothenburg, Sweden report. &#0160;For NFPA statistical information Download Eating and Drinking Establishments</p> </div> </div>

October201991 A devastating conflagration occurred in the scenic hills above the cities of Oakland and Berkeley, California, on October 20, 1991.  Burning embers carried by high winds from the perimeter of a small but growing duff fire ignited overgrown vegetation and led to the further ignition of tree crowns and combustible construction materials of adjacent homes, including many with wood-shingle roofs.

The result was a major wildland/urban interface fire that killed 25 people including a police officer and a fire fighter, injured 150 others, destroyed nearly 2,449 single-family dwellings and 437 apartment and condominium units, burned over 1,660 acres, and did an estimated $1.5 billion in damage.  

To read the whole NFPA Fire Investigation Report.  This story is also feature in NFPA's Newsletter Fire by the Numbers.  To Learn more about NFPA;s Fire Adapted Communities

October181984 On Thursday, October 18, 1984, an incendiary fire started on the third floor of the Alexander Hamilton Hotel in Paterson, New Jersey resulting in the deaths of 15 persons and injuries to over 50 persons.  The fire was confined to the third floor of the eight story steel frame fire resistive building, although products of combustion traveled to upper floors where the majority of the deaths occurred.

The hotel was a combination transient/residential hotel with 169 guest rooms or living suites on the upper six floors.  Although equipped with 3 enclosed stairways and a smoke detection system, the stairway doors were not closed and allowed early failure of the exit system due to smoke and heat spread.  Vertical ventilation shafts servicing the bathrooms of each guest room also spread smoke to the upper story guest rooms.

To learn more about this fire NFPA's Fire Investigations.

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