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NFPA Today

87 Posts authored by: paulalevesque Employee

On May 10, 1993, a major fire occurred at the Kader Industrial (Thailand) Company, Ltd. factory in the Nakhom Pathom Province ThailandNakhon Pathom Province of Thailand.  This facility manufactured stuffed toys, soft-plastic dolls and hard-plastic dolls.  The fire cause was still under investigation.  To date, 188 factory workers have died in this fire, although this number may increase because of the large number of workers who received serious injuries.  In addition, the fire destroyed the complex's main structure and caused damage to a smaller secondary structure.

Initial information indicates that the fire may have started near an electrical control panel in an area that was used for the storage of packaging and finished products.  The security personnel and others unsuccessfully attempted to extinguish the fire.  Approximately 1/2 hour after the fire was discovered, someone in the facility notified the fire department.  Approximately nine minutes after notification fire fighters arrived and found a large portion of the building was heavily involved in fire.  In addition most of the 1,100 employees in that portion of the building were still attempting to exit through a single exit stairway.  

Arriving fire fighters immediately encountered multiple major commitment for their first alarm companies.  The fire fighters had to initiate suppression operations against a large and rapidly spreading fire.  They had to immediately assist thousands of people who were trapped or directly exposed to the growing fire, and they had to manage the care of a large number of injured survivors.

The most significant factor contributing to the large loss of life was inadequate exit provisions.  However, other factors contributing to the loss include delay in fire department notification, inadequate training, lack of evacuation planning, the lack of vertical and horizontal fire separations, and the absence of automatic suppression and detection systems.  

For more information on this fire go to NFPA's Fire Investigations.  

To see more NFPA's Key Dates in Fire History

A rapidly spreading wildfire swept across 5,916 acres of a wildland/urban interface area near Grayling, StephanBridgeRoadFireMichigan beginning around 3:50 PM on May 8, 1990.  More than 76 homes and 125 other structures, plus 37 vehicles and boats, were destroyed or heavily damaged during the approximately five hours in which the wind pushed the Stephan Bridge Road fire for a distance of more than eight miles. Losses from the fire have been estimated at $5.5 million, plus another $700,000 in destroyed timber.  Extinguishment costs were more than $56,000. Due to a number of circumstances, 131 structures within the fire perimeter or immediately adjacent to it survived the fire.

The fire originated from the controlled burning of a large pile of brush and timber accumulated from recently cleared land. A burning permit was issued for the controlled burn and the burning was begun while snow covered the ground.  It was later assumed that the pile was completely extinguished.  However, investigators determined that the remaining fuel in the pile rekindled seven weeks after that initial ignition and escaped undetected from the cleared area. The resulting fire spread to other nearby ground fuels and extended into the adjacent forest before being detected by a Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) aircraft pilot and observer.

Based on NFPA’s analysis of this incident, the following are significant factors affecting the outcome of this fire, each is followed by specific recommendation(s) on how they might be mitigated.

  • the nature of the fire ignition
  • the windy and drying weather conditions
  • the type and arrangement of the fuels on flat terrain
  • the type and arrangement of structures in the forested setting
  • failure to clear combustible vegetation from homesites
  • public apathy to fire prevention and fire protection messages
  • interagency cooperation

 Full report can be found at NFPA's Fire Investigation.  Members download NFPA’s report on Brush, Grass and Forest Fires.  For more informationon wildfire safety go to NFPA Wildland Fires

A major after-business-hours, high-rise office building fire occurred on Wednesday, May 4, 1988 in the InterstateBankBuildingFire city of Los Angeles, California, resulting in one fatality and ultimately destroying four floors of the First Interstate Bank Building.  The 62-story, fire-resistive building is located in the heart of the city's business district.  The Los Angeles City Fire Department described the suppression effort as the most challenging and difficult high-rise fire in the city's history.  It took a total of 64 companies and 338 fire fighters more than 3 1/2 hours to control the fire.  The fire is of great technical significance because of the interior and exterior fire spread, the significant internal smoke spread, and the role of modern office environment materials and their arrangement in relation to fire growth and development.  

For more information on this

 Fire Investigation First Interstate Bank


At approximately 12:25 p.m., on April 16, 1984, workmen were performing arc welding operations on a NacogdochesTXhot press in the International Paper Company's Nacogdoches, Texas plywood manufacturing plant.  During welding operations, deposits of oil, pitch, and wood dust which collected on the press, the catwalks, the wood structural members of the roof assembly, and the plywood roof deck ignited.  The fire spread rapidly over the accumulated deposits both above and below the automatic sprinklers.  Fire department units began arriving at the plant at 12:28 p.m. and found the plywood manufacturing facility heavily involved in fire.  Within five minutes after the arrival of the initial fire department units, the building was "fully involved."  Roof collapse began approximately ten minutes later.  The fire destroyed the plywood manufacturing facility, resulting in an estimated loss of 32.5 million dollars.

Construction of the plant facilities began in 1969, and the plant was operational in August 1970.  The plywood manufacturing building encompassed approximately 218,000 undivided square feet of all wood construction.  In 1979, a 19,000 square foot addition of steel construction was added to the south end of the original building.  This addition housed the jet dryers and other processing equipment.

The building was protected throughout by twelve dry-pipe automatic sprinkler systems and two dry-pipe standpipe systems.

Three factors were identified during the investigation as significant in the rapid fire spread and loss of the building.  These factors were:

The accumulation of highly combustible deposits of oil, pitch, and wood dust generated in the plywood manufacturing process;

The lack of adequate fire prevention measures during arc welding operations;

The obstructed piping with in the dry-pipe automatic sprinkler systems.  

For more information on this Fire Investigation report Plywood Manufacturing Plant Fire Those who would like more information on industrial and manufacturing fires Fires in U.S. Industrial and Manufacturing Facilities

At approximately 11:10 p.m. on Thursday April 9, 1998, a fire was reported at a large turkey farm in BLEVETurkeycoopAlbert City, Iowa.  The fire began when teenagers riding an all terrain vehicle (ATV) struck two pipelines carrying liquid propane from an 18,000- gallon (68,220 L) capacity LP-Gas tank to two vaporizer units creating a leak.  The ensuing cloud of vapor was ignited by a near-by ignition source. The teens were able to escape the area prior to ignition.  They went to a near-by farmhouse to phone 911.

On the basis of the fire investigation and analysis, the NFPA has determined that the following significant factors directly contributed to the explosion and the fire fighter deaths:

Lack of protection around the LP tank installation and associated equipment.  This lack of protection allowed the ATV to strike the vaporizer piping.

The impingement of flame on the propane tank (in the vapor space), causing the tank shell to weaken and fail.

The close proximity of fire department operations to the LP tank while the tank was being exposed to direct flame contact.

The lack of an adequate and reliable water supply in close proximity to the site to allow for hose streams to be rapidly placed in service to cool the LP-Gas tank that was being impinged upon by flames from the broken pipes.

The decision to protect the exposed buildings and not relocate all personnel to a safe location given the lack of an adequate water supply.

Members can read the full NFPA investigation report BLEVE, Albert City, IA Those who would like to learn more about LP-GAS fires can read the NFPA Fires Starting with Flammable Gas or Flammable or Combustible Liquid For more information on Firefighter Fatalities and Firefighter Injuries

At 3:08 a.m. on April 6, 1990, the Miami Beach Fire department received a telephone call reporting a FontanaHotelFLfire at the Fontana Hotel.  First-in fire units found the hotel's lobby area heavily involved in fire and began simultaneous suppression and rescue operations.  Before the fire had been extinguished 9 patrons died and the building was extensively damaged.

Investigators were unable to determine the cause of the fire which appeared to have originated in a crawl space above a storage room.  Once the fire burned out of the crawl space, it ignited combustible ceiling tiles and other combustible materials in a lobby area.  Smoke and fire in the lobby area spread to the second and third stories through a utility shaft, normal cracks and voids in the structure, and HVAC ductwork.

Retroactive application of the NFPA Life Safety Code by the Miami Beach Fire Department contributed to
 the large number of survivors in this incident.  This is especially remarkable when the general construction of the building, advanced age of the majority of guests, and the time of alarm are considered.  More than 90 percent of the building population survived.  Well-constructed stair towers contributed to the evacuation of guests in the building.

For full NFPA investigation report members download this Miami Beach, FL report  For those interested in hotel fires Hotel and Motel Structure Fires

To learn more about NFPA 101: Life Safety Code® 

An the early hours of April 2, 1973, a fire involved the second floor "Blue Max" night club in the Hyatt HyattRegencyOHareHotelRegency O'Hare Hotel in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont.  This fire is of particular interest due to the fire exposure of a 10-story atrium in the center of the hotel.  Although property damage was high, exceeding $300,000, only one of the 1000 registered guests required medical attention.



For more information on this fire download this November 1973 Fire Journal article For those interested in fires in hotels Hotel and Motel Structure Fires


At approximately 11:30 a.m. on Monday, March 18, 1996, Chesapeake, Virginia fire fighters responded
to a fire in an auto parts store.  They found nothing showing on the exterior of the building at the time they arrived.  Two fire fighters entered the building and found a small amount of fire at the rear of the store.  The fire fighters extinguished that fire and began checking for fire extension.  Approximately 15 minutes after their arrival, the roof of the building collapsed trapping the two fire fighters.  They both died of burns with smoke inhalation being a contributory factor.

The building involved was approximately 12 years old.  Two of the building’s exterior bearing walls were constructed with unprotected steel frames and two were constructed with masonry block.  Light-weight wood trusses with a clear span of 50 feet (15.2 m) supported the store’s roof.  Because the facility was an auto parts store, it contained a wide variety of parts made of combustible and non-combustible materials, flammable auto paints (liquid and aerosol), and other flammable and combustible liquids.  Most packaging materials and some shelving materials were also combustible.

The fire occurred when a utility worker damaged the electric service drop conductors on the outside of the store. Electrical arcing inside the store ignited wood trusses supporting the roof and electric hot water heater.  Though some of the fire was visible to anyone in the occupied area of the building, much of the fire was hidden in the concealed space above the store's ceiling, and the fire was spreading in that area.

The fire fighters who died in this fire were most probably unaware that the building was constructed with light-weight wood roof trusses.  Approximately seven minutes after they had arrived on the scene, the crew inside the building radioed their battalion chief and reported that they had found the fire.  They asked for a second crew to come into the building and they asked for a pike pole.  Approximately eight minutes after this transmission, the roof collapsed intensifying the fire and trapping the fire fighters inside the building.  They radioed for assistance but, for an undetermined reason, the incident commander did not understand that transmission.  Two other chief officers who were responding to the scene heard the transmission and relayed that information to the on-scene commander.  By the time the on-scene commander realized that fire fighters were trapped inside the building, the fire had become sufficiently intense that rescue attempts were not possible.

 On the basis of on the NFPA's investigation and analysis of this fire, the following significant factors contributed to the loss of the two Chesapeake fire fighters:

 • The presence of light-weight wood roof trusses.

 • Fire officers and fire fighters not being aware that the Chesapeake auto parts store's roof was constructed with light-weight wood trusses.

 • The lack of a fire attack strategy that could minimize the risk to fire fighters while suppressing a fire involving light-weight wood trusses.

 • The lack of automatic sprinklers.

 NFPA members can download the full investigation report Fire Fighter Fatalities Chesapeake VA For more information on fire fighterfatalities Firefigher Fatalities in the United States Those interested in more information about mercantile fires can download NFPA's report and fact sheet on  Stores and Other Mercantile Properties

At approximately 10: p.m. on Sunday, March 17, 1996, and accidental fire occurred at the Scotch LaurinburgNCBoardandCareFacilityFireMeadow Rest Home in Laurinburg, North Carolina.  According to state fire investigators, faulty electrical wiring in a patient room's wall receptacle caused the ignition of bedding materials.  Eight elderly male residents died of smoke inhalation and two other residents sustained smoke related injuries.

The facility involved was a state licensed domiciliary care facility approved for 60 residents; 58 residents were in the building at the time of the fire.  This type of facility would be classified as a Large Board and Care Facility according to Life Safety Code criteria.  The building was a single- story, protected wood frame structure.  It had been equipped with heat detectors in the resident rooms and a building-wide fire alarm system.  Fire doors were installed in the corridors and provided smoke separation between building wings.  These fire doors were interlocked with the fire alarm system.  The facility had been inspected by state personnel approximately one month before the fire and no deficiencies were noted during that inspection.

According to local fire officials, the building's fire alarm system operated releasing the corridor fire doors.  As a result, the most severe smoke spread occurred on the wing of fire origin, and this was the area where the residents died.        

NFPA members can download the full investigation report Fire Investigation Board and Care Those interested in more information about board and care fires can download NFPA's report and fact sheet on Structure Fires in Residential Board and Care Facilities   To learn more about NFPA 101: Life Safety Code®

On March 14, 1981 an early morning fire in the first floor laundry room area spread to a nearby stairway Captureand trapped many of the 62 occupants of this 4-story residential hotel.  The fire resulted in the deaths of 19 tenants and in the collapse of a major portion of the structure.

The structural aspects of this building were contributing factors in both the fire spread and the number of fatalities.  These structural aspects include:

   •     lack of proper protection in hazardous areas,

    •     penetration of corridor walls by floor joists,

    •     improper enclosure of stairways, and

    •     combustible construction of stairways.

Although classified as a hotel, the occupants of this building ranged in age from the very young to elderly and, the physical and mental condition of some tenants probably effected the number of fatalities.

Individual tenant rooms were protected by single-station, battery-operated smoke detectors; however, a post-fire examination revealed that several of these detectors did not have batteries. 

NFPA members can download the full Fire Journal article Chicago Hotel Fire Those interested in more information about residential hotel fires can download  NFPA's Fires by Occupancy 2007-2011 Annual Averages report More information can also be found in  NFPA's Smoke alarms in US Home Fires Report

On Tuesday, March 13, 1990, a fire of an undetermined cause struck the 90-bed Dardanelle Nursing DardnelleHome in Dardanelle, Arkansas.  This home was a skilled nursing facility and was licensed and inspected by the State of Arkansas.  Of the 85 patients in the building, four died and at least ten others were sent to the hospital.

The building, which was constructed in 1969, was designed for use as a nursing home.  The one story, noncombustible structure had poured concrete floor slabs and concrete block exterior and interior walls.  Most of the walls for the corridor extended from the floor slab to within a few inches of the underside of the roof decking, and walls between rooms extended a few inches above the non-fire-rated, noncombustible suspended ceiling assembly.  The building’s built-up roof was constructed over corrugated metal pans supported by unprotected steel bar joists that were set on top of the corridor and exterior walls.

Two slab-to-slab, concrete-block fire walls divided the building into three areas (west wing, center section, and east wing).  Corridor openings in the fire wall were protected with 1 1/2-hr fire-rated doors equipped with magnetic hold-open devices.  The doors were also equipped with a coordinator for proper sequencing during closing.  Room doors were nonrated, solid core, wood doors with positive latching hardware.

The nonsprinklered building had a fire detection/alarm system that included smoke detectors in the corridor and resident rooms, audible local alarms, alarm lights outside of each patient room, manual pull stations, and interlocks to the HVAC system and the magnetic door holders.  In addition, fire extinguishers and emergency lighting were provided.  A partial automatic sprinkler system was provided protecting the kitchen area, an adjacent storage room, a soiled linen storage room, and the laundry.

The cause of the fire was not determined.  It appears, however, that the first materials ignited were the contents of a clean-linen cart in a linen storage room.  The fire then spread into the space above the room’s suspended ceiling.  Once in the concealed space above the ceiling, the hot gases and flames caused the asphalt in the built-up roof assembly to melt.  Combustible material dripped, and flammable vapors vented into the void space, intensifying the fire and causing heavy smoke.

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

    •    The absence of a complete automatic sprinkler system.

    •    The failure of the compartment of origin to contain the fire.

    •    The spread of fire and smoke through concealed space.

NFPA members can download the full investigation report NFPA Fire Investigation Health Care Those interested in more information about nursing home fires can download NFPA Health Care Facilities report and fact sheet


At approximately 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 10, 1981, eight people died and 350 were injured as a result of a fire at the largest hotel in the United States.  This fire has a great deal of technical significance because of exterior, vertical fire spread that involved 22 floors of the 30-story building.  This was the second multiple fatality fire in a Las Vegas area hotel in a 2 1/2-month period; the first occurred November 21, 1980 at the MGM Grand Hotel and resulted in 85 deaths and almost 700 injuries

 The fire at the Las Vegas Hilton was incendiary in origin.  The fire quickly developed in an elevator lobby on the 8th floor that had carpeting as its wall and ceiling finish.  A flame front that formed on the exterior of the building exposed each elevator lobby on the floors above primarily by radiation.  The fire progressed vertically from floor to floor to the top of the building via the building's exterior.

 The most significant factors that contributed to the fire spread and subsequent fatalities, injuries and damage were:  Failure to extinguish the fire in its incipient stage, and the presence of highly combustible carpeting on the walls and ceilings of the involved elevator lobbies which, in turn, contributed to the exterior fire spread.

 NFPA members can  download the full investigaion report. Those interested in more information about hotel and motel fires can download  NFPA's free fact sheet, and members can read a full report

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