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History of Major Fires in the United States

Last updated 4 years ago

Although various fire safety ordinances in New York City have made modern buildings considerably safer, several older buildings are still not up to the latest building codes. Unfortunately, it often takes a major tragedy to draw public attention to the true hazards of an inadequate fire safety infrastructure. Below is an overview of some major fires in recent U.S. history.

Cocoanut Grove, 1942

The Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston, MA remains the single deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history, claiming 492 lives—nearly half of the 1,000 plus occupants. After the unfortunate aftermath, the NFPA and other fire safety agencies adopted more stringent measures for exit and egress codes. 

MGM Grand, 1980

The MGM Grand fire in Las Vegas remains the second largest loss-of-life hotel fire in the U.S. 85 people were killed—mostly due to smoke inhalation—and over 600 more were injured. The severity of the fire was due, in part, to the lack of basic safety fire features such as sprinkler systems and ventilation controls, resulting in a severe smoke hazard in the upper levels. The NFPA subsequently instituted retrofit ordinances for high-rise buildings nationwide.

Station Nightclub, 2003

The Station nightclub fire was the fourth-deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history, killing over 100 people and injuring over 200 more. The building had already suffered fire damage in 1972, though subsequent renovations did not include a fire sprinkler system since retrofitting regulations were not in place until after MGM Grand fire. The severity of the fire—mostly due to factors such as the lack of a fire sprinkler system and inadequate emergency exits—led to various NFPA standard reforms for exit and egress measurements.

These unfortunate incidents are just a few examples of what can go wrong without proper fire safety systems. Contact Capitol Fire Sprinkler at (718) 533-6800 to consult with a certified expert on installation, inspection, testing, or repair of a fire sprinkler system for your NYC building. Contact us today to determine whether or not your building is up to date with the most current fire sprinkler codes.




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