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The Station Nightclub Fire, Rhode Island, 2003

A fire occurred on the night of Feb. 20, 2003, in The Station nightclub at 211 Cowesett Avenue, West Warwick, Rhode Island. A band that was performing that night used pyrotechnics that ignited polyurethane foam insulation lining the walls and ceiling of the stage platform. The fire spread quickly along the ceiling area over the dance floor. Smoke was visible in the exit doorways in a little more than one minute, and flames were observed breaking through a portion of the roof in less than five minutes. Egress from the nightclub, which was not equipped with sprinklers, was hampered by crowding at the main entrance to the building. One hundred people lost their lives in the fire. Of the fatalities, 95 were due to the inability of the occupants to evacuate before being overcome by the untenable conditions along the egress path.

On Feb. 27, 2003 a NIST team was directed to investigate the fire. The objectives of the investigation were:

  • to establish the likely technical cause or causes of the building failure;
  • to evaluate the technical aspects of evacuation and emergency response procedures;
  • to recommend, as necessary, specific improvements to building standards, codes, and practices based on the findings; and
  • to recommend any research and other appropriate actions needed to improve the structural safety of buildings, and improve evacuation and emergency response procedures, based upon the findings of the investigation.

The final report, "Report of the Technical Investigation of The Station Nightclub Fire (NIST NCSTAR 2), Volume 1 and Volume 2 ," includes details of the investigation as well as NIST's recommendations.