The Station nightclub fire.
The Station nightclub fire
The Station nightclub fire on the evening of Thursday, February 20, 2003, was the fourth-deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history, killing 100 people and injuring more than 200. Ninety-six perished on the night of the fire, and four died later from their injuries at local hospitals. The Station, which regularly hosted glam metal and 1980s rock bands, was a nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island.
The fire
The fire started about 11:10 PM, just seconds into headlining band Great White's opening song "Desert Moon," when pyrotechnics set off by the band's tour manager, Daniel Biechele, ignited the building's flammable soundproofing foam. The pyrotechnics were gerbs, cylindrical devices that produce a controlled spray of sparks. Biechele used three 15 by 15's, which spray sparks 15 feet for 15 seconds. Two gerbs were at 45-degree angles with the middle one pointing straight up. The flanking gerbs became the principal cause of the fire when their sparks hit the soundproofing foam on both sides of the drummer's alcove at the rear of the stage. The flames were first thought to be part of the act; only as the fire reached the ceiling and smoke began to billow did people realize it was uncontrolled. A mere twenty seconds after the pyrotechnics ended, the band stopped playing, and lead singer Jack Russell calmly remarked into the microphone, "Wow... this ain't good." In less than a minute, the entire stage was engulfed in flames, with most of the band members and entourage scurrying for the west exit by the stage.
By this time, the piercing shrill sound of the fire alarm had made everyone acutely aware of the impending danger, and although there were four possible exits, most people naturally headed for the front door through which they had entered. The ensuing stampede in the inferno led to a crush in the narrow hallway leading to that exit, quickly blocking it completely and resulting in numerous deaths and injuries among the patrons and staff, who numbered somewhat more than 404 (the highest of three conflicting official capacity limits).[1] Of those in attendance, roughly one-quarter died, and half were injured, either from burns, smoke inhalation, or trampling. Among those who perished in the fire were Great White's lead guitarist, Ty Longley, and the show's emcee, WHJY DJ Mike "The Doctor" Gonsalves.
The fire, from its inception, was caught on videotape by cameraman Brian Butler for WPRI-TV of Providence, and the beginning of the tape was released to national news stations. Butler was there for a planned piece on nightclub safety being reported by Jeffrey Derderian, a WPRI news reporter who was also a part-owner of The Station. WPRI-TV would later be cited for a conflict of interest violation for having a reporter do a report concerning his own property.[2] The report had been inspired by the Chicago nightclub stampede that had claimed 21 lives only four days earlier. At the scene of the fire, Butler gave this understandably agitated account of the tragedy