On Tuesday, July 31, 1979, at 3:26 a.m., a fire was reported at the Holiday Inn, Southgate Parkway, Cambridge, Ohio. Ten people died from smoke inhalation and 82 were injured, several of them seriously. All fatalities were occupants of second floor guest rooms.
The two-story building was of protected noncombustible construction. The area of origin was within a first floor corridor towards one end of the guest room wings. The interior wall finish in the corridors and three open stairways of the building consisted of combustible vinyl wall covering. The building was equipped with a manual fire alarm system; however, there were no other initiating devices. The alarm system was not connected to the fire department.
The primary factors that led to the casualties in this incident were the high smoke production of the combustible interior finish, the unprotected vertical openings at the stairways, the lack of early warning detection and the inadequate alerting of occupants of the fire. Many guests were seriously injured while escaping through nonoperable plate glass windows. Solid doors on the guest rooms provided compartmentation and helped to limit the number of casualties.
NFPA members can download this January 1980 Fire Journal article. For statistical information NFPA's U.S. Hotel and Motel Structure Fires