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NFPA Today

87 Posts authored by: paulalevesque Employee

July 26
On July 26, 1980, a later-evening fire in a licensed hotel in the resort town of Bradley Beach, New Jersey, was responsible for the deaths of 24 of the 38 residents of the facility.  Most of the residents were elderly and mentally impaired, and many of them had be referred to the hotel by state mental health care institutions of by the county welfare department.

The fire, most probably of electrical origin started in a concealed space above the ceiling of a basement recreation room and spread to upper floors by means of an open door from the basement and a three-story stairway.

Factors that contributed to the fatalities were;

  •     a delayed alarm caused by fire ignition in a concealed space,

  •     the lack of an early-warning fire detection system,

  •     lack of a second means of egress from upper floors,

  •     presence of louvers on guest rooms doors, and

  •     a basement door that was left open.   

July 26 2
For more information on this NFPA Fire Investigations.  To learn more about electrical fires NFPA Fire Analysis and Research statistical report on Electrical Fires.           

July 23

On July 23, 1971, in New Orleans, Louisiana, six people died when fire erupted in a twelfth-story room of the high-rise hotel building.  Five victims were trying to escape from the motor hotel by using an elevator from the fifteenth floor.  When the elevator reached the twelfth floor it stopped and the doors opened.  Five of the six passengers died from heat and smoke ion the twelfth-story corridor.  The sixth victim was a guard who also died in the twelfth-story corridor. July 23 2

 To read more about the Modern Motor Hotel Fire download this NFPA Fire Journal article For NFPA Fire Analysis and Research statistical report US Hotel and Motel Structure Fires.

July 4 boarding house
At approximately 4:00 a.m., on July 4, 1984, a fire in a three story, unsprinklered, wood-frame

structure in downtown Beverly, Massachusetts, used as a boarding house on its two upper floors, resulted in the death of 15 residents and injury to 9 others.

A total of 36 residents, including seven former mental patients, occupied the 17 second-floor and 18 third-floor guest rooms that opened onto two centrally located exit access corridors, one on each floor.  There was a single open stairway serving one end of the corridors and an exterior fire escape serving the other end.  The ground floor of the 48 foot by 97 foot building was occupied by several commercial establishments.

The residential portion of the building was equipped with a combination corridor smoke detection and guest room heat detection system.  Activation of a detector would sound an alarm horn on each level of the building.  The system was not designed to notify the fire department automatically.

Investigators from the Massachusetts State Fire Marshal's Office determined that the fire was incendiary in nature.  Once ignited, the fire spread quickly, involving the 3/16-inch wood paneling interior finish in the stairway and the exit access corridor.  Heat and smoke easily penetrated the upper levels of the building through the open stairway.  The fire spread rapidly throughout the remainder of the residential floors of the building.  Fire fighters, assisted by the police, rescued approximately nine guests over ground ladders from the building.

The significant factors contributing to the loss of life in this incident are considered to be:

  •     the nature of the ignition scenario,

  •     the open stairway,   

  •     the combustibility of the interior finish,

  •     a delay in notifying the fire department.     

To see the Full NFPA Fire Investigation report.

For statistical information NFPA's Structure Fires in Residential Board and Care Facilities

On the afternoon of July 2, 1994, lightning struck Storm King Mountain near Glenwood Springs,
Colorado, igniting a fire that claimed the lives of 14 fire fighters and burned for 8 days.  Named the “South Canyon Fire,” this incident is the most deadly wildland fire in the United States since the 1953 Rattlesnake Fire on the Mendocino National Forest which claimed the lives of 15 fire fighters.

The fire burned for several days, and during that period, suppression resources were gradually committed to the fire.  On afternoon of July 6, there were 49 fire fighters on the mountain.  These fire fighters included hotshot*, smoke jumper and helitack** crews.  Late that afternoon, a passing weather front caused wind speeds to increase and cause high wind gusts.  Shortly after 4:00 p.m., the fire “blew out”.  Flame heights were over 100 feet, and the flame front was moving at more than ten feet per second (7+ mph). July 2

Nine of the smoke jumpers apparently deployed their fire shelters in a previously burned area and survived.  Nine hotshots and three smoke jumpers who were working the fireline attempted to reach their safe area when the blow out occurred.  The rapidly spreading fire quickly overran them, killing all twelve fire fighters.  Fire fighters who were on the ridge saw the fire spread across the mountain’s southwest face towards their position.  The rapidly spreading flame front was only seconds away from them when they retreated down the ravine on the east side of the ridge.  All of these fire fighters were able to escape to a highway below the mountain.  Two helitack fire fighters also saw the approaching flame front.  Rather than retreating down the ravine, these fire fighters ran the ridge in a northeasterly direction.  They were trapped in a small ravine where they died.

For more information on this report NFPA Fire Investigation. To learn more about firefighter fatalities in the U.S. NFPA Fire Analysis and Research. Visit the Firewise Communities for more infomation on wildfire preparedness.

On June 30, l989, a rapidly developing fire occurred on the sixth floor of an occupied office high-rise in Fivedie Atlanta, Georgia.  The accidental fire killed five people, injured twenty others, and caused heavy damage on the floor of fire origin.

The building involved is a 10-story, fire-resistive structure with concrete columns, beams, and floor slabs and interior partitions constructed with gypsum wallboard on metal studs.  Fire protection systems include a standpipe system equipped with occupant hose stations and a fire alarm system.  The alarm system is initiated by manual pull stations throughout the building and by smoke detectors on some floors and is connected directly to the Atlanta Fire Department.  The building is not equipped with an automatic sprinkler system.

The fire occurred at approximately 10:30 a.m., when an electrician, working in a sixth floor electrical room, attempted to insert a fuse into an energized circuit with a load on it.  Massive arcing occurred and ignited the interior finish materials (including floor and wall coverings) in an exit access corridor.  Many sixth floor occupants were not able to reach the exit stairways.  Because smoke began to fill the tenant areas, several of the trapped occupants broke exterior windows and waited to be rescued.  Occupants on other floors used interior stairways to escape without injury.

The Atlanta Fire Department was automatically notified when the building's alarm system was manually activated.  Once on the scene, fire fighters worked to rescue occupants and to suppress the fire.

Approximately one-half of the sixth floor occupants were trapped.  One woman jumped and received multiple injuries, and 14 people were rescued by aerial ladder.  Two of the five fatalities were found in a suite at the east end of the floor.  Another victim was found in a suite directly across the corridor from the electrical room and the last two victims were found in suites at the west end of the floor.

The NFPA's analysis of this incident points to the following major factors as having contributed to the loss of life and property:

    •     The rapid development of a severe fire as a result of arcing in the electrical room;

    •    The immediate blockage of the egress path due to:

                 a.  the location of the room of fire origin;

                 b.  rapid spread of fire in the corridor;

   •    The absence of automatic sprinkler protection to control fire growth and   

            spread in the exit access corridor.

To read the full NFPA Fire Journal article  For more information on statistical data NFPA's High-Rise Building Fires report

At 9:35 a.m. on June 25, 1985, a series of explosions and subsequent fires occurred at the site of the FireworksExplosionJenningsOKAerlex Fireworks Manufacturing Corporation, near the town of Jennings, Oklahoma.  In all, 21 people were killed and 5 injured in what was the second-deadliest fireworks factory explosion in the United States reported to the NFPA between 1950 and 1986.

The company was federally licensed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury/Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and produced approximately 90% display-type special fireworks and 10% common fireworks.  As a result of increased demand created by the upcoming July 4th holiday, the plant had temporarily increased its staff and extended the hours of operation.

As determined by the Oklahoma Stated Fire Marshal's Office, the incident was most likely the result of careless unloading of pyrotechnic materials from a pickup truck to an adjacent assembly building.  Investigators estimate that it was only a matter of seconds from the initial ignition before the explosions, which were felt 13 miles away, leveled most of the facility.  Factors such as unbarricaded process buildings coupled with the quantity and type of explosive composition on hand are believed to be responsible for the magnitude of the loss.   

To read more about this NFPA Fire Investigation Report   To learn about NFPA's Fire Analysis and Research fire statistics on Fireworks.

On June 24, 1973, a fire in a second-floor cocktail lounge in the French Quarter of New Orleans killed 32 UpstairsLoungeFront patrons and injured 12 others.  The fire was deliberately set on the stairway of the main entrance, blocking the normal exit route from the lounge.  Combustible wood paneling and carpet in the stairway provided fuel for the fire.  In the confusion that followed, 20 people
escaped through a rear door, 15 others escaped through windows, and 28 bodies were recovered from the lounge after the fire. of those who escaped, one died before reaching the hospital, three died later if burn injuries, and seven others were critically burned. Upstairsloungeinside


To read the full NFPA Fire Investigation report  To learn more about NFPA's Fire Analysis and Research fire statistics Eating and Drinking Establishments

On Monday, June 8, 1998 at approximately 9:20 a.m., a series of explosions occurred at a grain GrainSiloFireelevator facility in Haysville, Kansas (five miles south of Wichita).  There were seven fatalities as a result of the explosions.  Ten workers were injured by the blasts.

NFPA Fire Investigator Robert F. Duval arrived at the site on Tuesday, June 9, 1998 and joined a team of investigators from: Sedgwick County, the City of Wichita, the Kansas State Fire Marshal's Office and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.

This grain elevator was one of the largest in the world.  The facility contained 246 concrete silos, each measuring 30-ft. (9.1 m) in diameter and over 120-ft. (36.6 m) in height.  Each silo could hold approximately 70,000 bushels of grain, making the total capacity of the facility nearly 21 million bushels (including the 7 million bushels contained in the headhouse bins). At the time of the incident, the facility was at about 50% of capacity.  The facility measured over 2,700-ft. (823 m) or approximately 1/2 mile in length.  Wheat was the main product being stored in this facility.The explosions occurred as the facility was being prepared for the early summer harvest of wheat in the mid-west.  Workers were preparing the facility for the harvest by cleaning the gallery houses at the top of the silos as well as the conveyor tunnels under the silos.  Routine maintenance was also taking place throughout the facility.  That included greasing bearings on the four conveyor lines.

To see the full report NFPA members download Grain Elevator, Haysville, KS. To learn more about other storage facility fires go to NFPA's Reports and statistics, Storage 

At approximately 2:15 a.m., on Tuesday, June 2, 1992, a fire occurred at an adult foster care facility in Detroit MIBoardandCareDetroit, Michigan and resulted in the deaths of 10 occupants.  The building involved in this fire was originally a three-story, two-family dwelling.  However, in the early 1970s it was renovated for use as an adult foster care facility.  At the time of the fire, sixteen predominantly elderly individuals lived in the facility, and some of these residents were mentally or physically handicapped.  In addition to the residents, one night supervisor was in the facility.

Local investigators believe that the probable cause of the fire was smoking materials discarded in a wastebasket in a first floor kitchen.  Once ignited, the fire spread to the combustible interior finish materials in that room, and then the growing fire ignited combustible finish materials in other first-floor rooms.  Open stairways and other unprotected vertical openings allowed the combustion products to rapidly spread throughout the building.  Untenable conditions developed in the building before most of the residents could safely evacuate.

 The factors that significantly contributed to the loss of life were:

 The lack of an automatic fire sprinkler system,

 The presence of combustible interior finish throughout the structure,

 The lack of fire safety and evacuation training for staff and residents,

 The presence of open stairways and other unprotected vertical openings, and

 The lack of a second exit for the second floor.

For more information about this NFPA members can download the Full Investigation report .  To learn more about NFPA's statistical data go to Structure Fires in Board and Care Facilities

On the morning of Wednesday, June 2, 1993, an accidental fire occurred at the Elmwood Village Ashland KY NursinghomeConvalescent Home in Ashland, Kentucky and resulted in the evacuation and/or relocation of most occupants in the facility.  The combined impact of staff actions, sprinkler operation and fire department intervention prevented resident deaths and reduced the extent of property damage in the facility.


All visitors can download the NFPA Summary Nursing Home (sprinkler success), Ashland, KY.  For statistical data on nursing home fires you can download the NFPA report Fires in Health Care Facilities

Zebra room beverly hill clubA fire at the Beverly Hills Supper Club in Southgate, Kentucky, on May 28, 1977, killed 165 patrons and
employees and injured another 70 people.  The Beverly Hills fire was the worst multiple-death building fire in the United States since the 1942 fire in Boston's Cocoanut Grove night club.

One of the major factors contributing to the large loss of life in this fire was:

  • The fire in the Zebra Room developed for a considerable time before discovery.  The presence of concealed, combustible ceiling tile and wood materials used for supports provided a fuel supply for continued spread of the fire through the original ceiling and other concealed spaces.

For more information about this fire NFPA's Fire Investigations. To see NFPA's Fire Analysis and Research Division's statistical report Eating and Drinking Establishments

At 8:23 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23, 1995, a four-alarm fire occurred in a bulk merchandising store in Quincy, MA.  At the time of the fire the building was occupied by approximately 60 employees and 100 customers.  Quincy pic

The single story building was of noncombustible construction with an area of 122,395 square feet.  The display merchandise and bulk storage was on a metal double rack system throughout the store.  The building was equipped with a fire alarm and sprinkler system. 

The fire started in the lower storage rack of an area that stored pool chemicals.  An investigation conducted by the Quincy Fire Department and the Massachusetts State Fire Marshal’s Office determined the fire was accidental in nature probably caused by a chemical reaction involving the pool chemicals and leaking motor oil.  The motor oil leaked from boxes containing lawn mowers stored in the vicinity of the pool chemicals.  The lawn mowers were shipped in containers that included a small quantity of oil which had to be added prior to use.

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

  • Incompatible materials stored too close to oxidizers.
  • Materials stored in excess of allowable storage heights and within 18 inches of the sprinklers.
  • Inadequate sprinkler design for encapsulated materials.
  • The lack of in-rack sprinklers.
  • Rack shelving of solid materials and wooden slats spaced too close together.
  • Storage in aisles, which reduced commodity clearance between adjacent racks.

For more information about this fire NFPA's Fire Investigations.  To see NFPA's Fire Analysis and Research Division's statistical report Stores and Other Mercantile Properties.

On Tuesday, May 13, 1997, a fire occurred at a board and care facility in Harveys Lake, Pennsylvania. HarveysLakeState fire investigators determined that the fire most likely started on a screened-in porch. Investigators determined that the fire was caused by disposal of smoking materials on the screened-in porch area of the building. The fire killed ten residents and injured three others. The building was heavily damaged by the fire, and the property loss was estimated at $270,000.

The facility was a two-story plus basement, wood-frame structure with several additions that had been made over time, which increased the size of the building. Fire protection features included a fire alarm system with smoke detectors and heat detectors, and fire extinguishers. Interior stairways were enclosed. Steel doors with self-closing devices protected openings to the stairways; however, the self-closing device on one of the stairway doors was deactivated. Wall and ceiling finishes were noncombustible. The facility was not equipped with an automatic sprinkler system. 

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

  Improper use or disposal of smoking materials.

  Ineffective resident and staff action.

  Inadequate means of egress.

  Open fire doors in vertical fire separations.

  Room doors with inadequate fire resistance ratings.

  Lack of automatic door closing devices on individual room doors.

  Lack of automatic sprinkler system.

To read about this board and care facility fire NFPA Fire Investigations.

For more information on board and care facility fires NFPA's Fire Analysis and Research

NFPA’s report on Electrical Fires has statistical information to keep you informed about some types of HomeElectricalFiresFactSheetelectrical failures or malfunctions as a factor contributing to ignition in home structure fires.

  • U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 47,820 reported home structure fires involving
    electrical failure or malfunctions in 2007-2011.  These fires resulted in $1.48 billion in direct property damage.
  • These estimates are based on data from the U.S. Fire Administration’s (USFA’s) National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA’s) annual fire department experience survey.

For more information on NFPA's Electrical Fires report. To learn more about electrical safety in the home . To find out more about NFPA 70 NEC go to  NFPA Codes & Standards Document Information Page.

In the early evening hours on May 11, 1984, a rapidly spreading fire destroyed the "Haunted Castle" Haunted Castleamusement facility at the 200-acre Six Flags Great Adventure Park in Jackson Township, New Jersey, approximately 50 mile south of New York City.  At the time of the fire, there were an estimated 28-34 visitors and three employees in the Haunted Castle.  Eight of the visitors, unable to immediately exit the structure, died in the fire.

The one-story structure was comprised of 17 commercial trailers with approximate dimensions of 8 feet high by 8 feet wide and 40 feet long.  The trailers were connected together by means of plywood and wood framing.  The front facade of the structure consisted of a wall approximately 35 feet high by 109 feet long with three smaller portions that projected into the park area.

The interior of the Haunted Castle was constructed of plywood partitions which created a convoluted path of travel approximately 450 feet in length.  Materials used for the interior of the Haunted Castle included synthetic foam, various fabrics and plastics, plywood, and tar paper.

For more information on this NFPA's Full Fire Investigation report.  Go to NFPA Journal May/June 2014 Article Haunted by Fire.

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