Cocoanut Grove Nightclub – the second-worst single-building fire in American history

November 27, 2010

The Cocoanut Grove was a nightclub located at 17 Piedmont Street, Boston, Massachusetts. On November 28, 1942, the fashionable nightclub burned – it is the deadliest nightclub fire in United States history, killing 492 people and injuring hundreds more. It is also the second-worst single-building fire in American history. Only the Iroquois Theater fire in Chicago on December 30, 1903 killed more (602). The Coconut Grove fire led to a reform of fire codes and safety standards across the country.

One of the earliest grief studies was performed after this fire, and is considered a classic work on grief. Dr. Erich Lindemann, a Boston psychiatrist, studied survivors and their relatives and published “Symptomatology and Management of Acute Grief.”

The club’s owner, Barney Welansky, was eventually convicted on 19 counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Shortly after, Massachusetts and other states enacted laws for public establishments that banned flammable decorations in public assemblies. Inward-swinging exit doors were prohibited, and each exit door required signage to be visible at all times. After this fire, all revolving doors used for egress must either be flanked by at one or more outward-swinging doors, or of the type to permit the individual doors to fold flat to permit free-flowing traffic in a panic situation.

Knowing our fire history will help prevent recurrences in the future. Many of the codes we use today are built on the lessons and failures of yesterday.

84 Die in Hotel Fire – MGM Grand 30th Anniversary

November 20, 2010

The MGM Grand Hotel fire occurred on November 21, 1980 (The MGM Grand is now Bally’s Las Vegas). The fire killed 84 people. The MGM Grand fire is the third worst hotel fire in US history. There were approximately 5,000 people in the hotel at the time of the fire. There were reportedly over 700 injuries. 84 died.

Three months later, February 10, 1981, another major hotel fire occurred at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel where 8 people perished. As a result of the deadly hotel fires, Las Vegas passed a rigorous sprinkler code for all hotel and casino properties. Since the installation of fire sprinklers, there has not been a loss of life hotel fire in Las Vegas.

The worst loss of life hotel fire is the December 7, 1946 Winecoff Hotel fire, Atlanta, GA that killed 119 people. The next worst fire was the Dupont Plaza Hotel fire in Puerto Rico on December 31, 1986 where 97 lives were lost.

Is your Chimney ready for heating season?

November 7, 2010

Your chimneys should be inspected at least annually.

If your inspection determines that the chimney needs to be cleaned, you may use a chimney brush, and material to seal off your fireplace or base of chimney from allowing soot into your home. There are also chimney sweeps who can make short work of the job.

According to the paper titled: Home Fires Involving Heating Equipment Fireplaces, Chimney And Chimney Connectors, by John R. Hall, Jr., January 2010, Half (51%) of home fireplace, chimney and chimney connector fires involve failure to clean as a factor contributing to ignition.

The complete report may be viewed at