Deadliest hotel fire in the USA – December 7, 1946

The Winecoff Hotel Fire occurred  a little after 3:00 am on December 7, 1946. It is the deadliest hotel fire in the USA, killing 119 of 280 guests. The Winecoff Hotel is located at the corner of Peachtree Street and Ellis Street in downtown Atlanta, GA. At fifteen stories, the Winecoff Hotel was Atlanta’s tallest hotel. It was advertised as a “fireproof” hotel because it was constructed of brick, masonry, and stone.

The Winecoff Hotel opened on October 30, 1913. It was 15 stories tall, had a central-spiral staircase and an elevator that was under the control of an operator. The building lacked fire escapes, fire doors or automatic fire sprinklers. Floors were not provided adequate fire cut-offs from one another as we are accustomed to seeing today. Guests trapped on the upper floors tried to climb down bed sheets or rope, only to lose their grip and fall to their death. This is yet another major fire that shaped the fire codes as we know them today.

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The U.S. Fire Administration offers these tips on Hotel and Motel Fire Safety

When traveling, it is important to become familiar with your surroundings.

Plan Ahead

• When making your reservations, ask if the hotel or motel has smoke detectors and fire sprinklers.

• When traveling, take a flashlight with you.

• Read the fire evacuation plan carefully. If one is not posted in your room, request one from the front desk.

• Locate the two exits from your room.

• Count the number of doors between your room and the exits. This will assist you in the need of an emergency evacuation.

• Locate the fire alarms on your floor.

• Never smoke in bed.

Life Safety Steps

• If the fire is in your room, get out quickly. Close the door, sound the alarm and notify the front desk.

• Always use a stairwell, never an elevator. The elevator could stop at the floor of the fire.

• If the fire is not in your room, leave if it is safe to do so. Be sure to take your room key with you in case fire blocks your escape and you need to re-enter your room.

• To check the hallway for fire, touch the door with the back of your hand to test the temperature. If the door is cool, get low to the floor, brace your shoulder against the door and open it slowly. Be ready to close it quickly if there are flames on the other side. Crawl low in the smoke to the nearest exit; the freshest air is near the floor.

• If your room door is hot, do not open it. Instead, seal the door with wet towels or sheets. Turn off the fans and air conditioners. Call the fire department to give your location. Signal from your window.

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