Hotel fires are known to be among the most dangerous and deadly types of fires known to man. There are significant amount of people occupying the building at any given time. In our history, hotels owners have not taken proper safety measures to protect its customers. There are also many ignorant people who think its just a “False Alarm,” and fail to take the proper evacuation measures when it comes to an emergency situation. Many of these fires result in mass injuries and significant loss of lives. The Gulf Hotel fire, the LaSalle Hotel fire, The MGM Grand hotel fire, and the Winecoff hotel fire, are all noteworthy and historical fires that resulted in significant loss of lives and have been continuously evaluated and remembered through out our history.
The Gulf Hotel, located in Houston, was located at the corner of Lousiana and Preston. It was a three story brick building and the over crowded hotel was located on the second and third floors. It was a very popular place for transients because it was very close to the bus depot at offered beds for only 40 cent a night and cots for only 20 cents. In the early morning of September 7, 1943, a deadly blaze broke out in the fully occupied hotel. A mattress ignited by a careless smoker was the cause of this deadly blaze. The fire spread very quickly because of the wooden partitions that created the rooms in the very old building. By the time the fire department had arrived, the building was completely ablaze. The hotel guests jammed the very narrow hallways and the fire escapes and blocked off the exits. Many tried jumping from windows, two to their deaths. The firefighters fought the blaze for more than two hours before they were able to begin a search effort. Firefighters pulled 38 people from the rubble. The total death toll was 55 people and was the city of Houston’s worst loss of life from fire.
The LaSalle Hotel on located on the corner of Madison and LaSalle in downtown Chicago, opened in 1909. Soon after, people all across the country knew it as the “largest, safest, and most modern hotel in America.” It was also claimed to be fireproof. Or so they thought. On June 15, 1946, a hotel guest carelessly tossed a cigarette, down one of the elevator shafts of the hotel. Within minutes, a fire was burning uncontrollably. Flames shot upward through the elevator shaft and sent fire to the upper floors of the building. It eventually stopped on the seventh floor. Dense smoke filled the hallways through the top floor. Many guests heard cries of fire but ignored them thinking it was a prank. Many people became trapped and suffocated from the thick smoke. There was no hope to the people on the upper floors because the fire truck ladders could not reach them. A total of 61 people were killed in this deadly blaze. There were many things that could have been done to prevent this fire from happening. From the time the hotel opened in the early 20th century, the hotel owners were warned of dangerous fire hazards that were in the building. The draperies were highly combustible and there were no escape routes for the guests in emergency situations. Since these warnings went ignored, the fire and loss of life could be blamed on the careless owners themselves.
On December 7, 1946, the worst hotel fire in U.S. history took place at the Winecoff Hotel. The hotel is located on the corner of Peachtree Street and Ellis Street in the heart of downtown Atlanta. At 3:00AM on December 7, 1946, a fire started on the third floor. It was believed to be an accidental fire, possibly due to careless smoking. At the time of the fire, the building lacked fire escapes, fire doors or automatic fire sprinklers. Firefighters fought to save the lives of the 280 guests but given the conditions of the building and the capability of the firefighters equipment, 119 people were killed in the deadly blaze. This fire had an impact on modern safety codes for years to come.
It is now the 1970s and we are entering a new era of fire safety in the modern hotels such as the MGM grand in Las Vegas. Building design and codes were very modern in buildings such as this and were considered to be economically safe. But on the morning of November 12, 1980, the impossible happened at the MGM grand. The wiring behind a wall simmered and than burned undetected. Before long a flashover occurred that spread this hidden fire throughout the hotel and casino at a rate of 19 ft. per second. The smoke traveled through the resorts air-circulation system and trapped victims in hallways, rooms, and stairways. Eighty-four people were killed on the scene and another 3 died a year later from the toxic smoke.
There are a lot factors that contributed to severity of this fire. Back when the building was being constructed, the hotel had refused to put a sprinkler system in the building. Had there been a fire suppression system in the building, there would not have been nearly the amount of lost lives as well as property damage. Also the building had not been properly inspected. The resort owners, the code enforcers and the designers were responsible for the fire.
Hotels are now designed to be a much safer environment for guests. Over the years, our safety codes and standards have been improved and higher safety measures have been taken. There have been hundreds of deadly hotel fires in our history, and we have learned a lot from each one of them. Every year improvements are being made and new safety standards are being implemented to ensure the safety of the people.
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