Tragedy in Chicago: The Iroquois Theater Fire of 1903

Looking back in history is sometimes a sad experience, especially when there has been a devastating tragedy. However, if we want to learn from history and make sure the same types of disaster don't occur in modern culture, it's a necessary exercise.  In the area of fire safety and fire prevention, it's helpful to look at some fires from our nation's history and be schooled by those experiences.  One fire that was tragic yet eye-opening was the Iroquois Theater fire in Chicago, Illinois.

Tragedy Next Door: The Brooklyn Theater Fire

Our nation is no stranger to tragedy, both on large and small scales.  Unfortunately, fires have left their mark on American history. Moving forward, however, we've been able to extract many lessons from these fires and have done better in the realm of fire protection.  One especially tragic fire that occurred in the United States happened right in the borough next door - in the heart of Brooklyn.  Back in 1876, just about 150 years ago, the Brooklyn Theater fire devastated our very own NYC.

On the cusp of winter in December 1876, tragedy struck our city.  The Brooklyn Theater, located on the corner of Johnson and Washington streets, experienced devastation on a large scale. On December 5th of that year, over 1,000 people were in attendance for a theater performance, having no idea just what was about to strike. During the show, in something of the perfect storm, a gas light happened to touch a section of the scenery. Once ablaze, the ignited scenery spread the fire to other pieces of the set. It wasn't before too long that the stage was going up in flames and panic set in.

There were a string of things that went wrong that night, but a fateful error was the response of the stagehands.  Instead of prioritizing getting the guests safely out of the building, they focused their energy on putting out the fire, which ended up being a futile act. Essentially, this trapped the patrons inside while the playhouse was ablaze.  Another tragic mistake was in the design of the building itself.  There were not enough fire escapes to handle a crowd that size, only one narrow, tight staircase that would lead to safety.  As expected, the terrified crowd raced to this one exit, creating a bottleneck that caused individuals to be trampled and trapped in the burning building.

When the damage was assessed, among the loss of the theater was the loss of 278 lives.

The only redemption of a tragedy like this is that we have learned lessons to prevent further devastation from fires.  Today, set, scenery, curtains and other decorative items are required to be treated with fire retardants, which slows the burning process and prevents the escalation of a fire. Any place where the public gathers, including theaters, is required to have flameproofing treatments on site. Had flameproofing been in practice back in 1876, the outcome would have been very, very different.

Other fire safety measures are in place now that weren't back then. For example, public buildings require adequate fire exits to handle the maximum capacity of individuals that is allowed. Additionally, automatic fire sprinklers are now a requirement as well. Evacuation over extinguishment is also now prioritized. 

Thankfully, we have very strict codes in NYC which allow us to keep the public as safe as possible from the threat of devastation like the Brooklyn Theater fire. At Queens Flameproofing, we are proud to do our part in keeping our neighborhoods and communities safe from fire. As industry experts, we use our skills and modern techniques to keep our borough protected.  If you have flameproofing needs you would like to discuss, please call today. We would be happy to serve you: 1-800-972-5587


Lessons from the Warwick, RI Fire, 2003

It's a commonly known phrase "Those who don't' learn from history will be doomed to repeat it."  George Santayana is given credit for these wise words, and it's meant to be an eye-opener, inviting us to study the past and learn from those mistakes. This concept easily translates to fire protection and safety. Over the course of America's history, there have been tragic, devastating fires that have resulted in horrific loss of life.  If we're wise, we will study the causes of those fires so we aren't fated to make those same errors. One fire we can learn from, especially since it's a more modern fire in our history, is the Station Night Club fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island. 

What to Expect from a Top-Notch Flameproofing Company

These days, the requirements to have your business operational are pretty intense, and among the list of "must-do"s is having a business site that is properly protected from fire.  This involves the important task of having the decorative items at your location treated with flame repellents. This critical job is not one that should be entrusted to just any old company. According to the FDNY, there are certain specifications that must be adhered to in both the process of the treatments and the company performing the work. As a business owner and the one responsible for the safety of all those who come on the premises, you want to make sure the company you choose is top of the line. Outlined below are a few things you should keep in mind.

Are the Materials Used for Flameproofing Safe?

Compared to our culture decades ago, so much more knowledge is available to us concerning substances that are toxic. Being a health-conscious society, we are careful to be up to date about the latest substances in lotions, detergents, soaps, and even candles. Along the same lines, it's not uncommon for a business owner to experience some reservations about the chemicals in flameproofing treatments. Are fire retardants safe to breathe? Are they safe if a person touches the items that have received flameproofing treatments? At Queens Flameproofing, we understand the concerns of business owners and provide our promise regarding the safety of the chemicals we use to treat objects with flame retardants.