Essay Writing

Thoughts On Rhode Island Night Club Fire Video

Please view the Rhode Island nightclub fire video on youtube. I also have included the start of a case study research project I am working on in the resource section that gives some background and, more importantly, a breakdown of the timetable of notable events during the incident. give your thoughts about the fire and the potential use of the video, which does have some graphic moments, as a public education tool.

Station Night Club Fire Case Study For EM

The Station Night Club in Warwick Rhode Island was the looked on as an average nighttime entertainment spot like others that could be found across the county. Like clubs found elsewhere the nightclub was a locally owned and operated establishment that served alcohol and featured live entertainment. A place where community members came to enjoy themselves socializing with others and relaxing. Nobody in the community would have predicted that it would become the site of the fourth largest deadliest nightclub fire in America. On February 20, 2003 that is exactly what happened when an indoor pyrotechnic display caught the building on fire killing 100 and injuring another 187 people. This incident resulted in more than 150 million dollars in settlements, jail time and years of heartache to the community (Tucker, 2008).

The nightclub resided in a wooden structure of more than five thousand square feet originally constructed in 1946. The building had served as a bar, restaurant and night club through the years having gone through several renovations and even a fire in 1972. In its last configuration patrons entered through the front door down an entry way of approximately fifteen feet to find a bar area to the left, a stage and dance floor to the right with bathrooms and offices straight ahead of them. While the building did have portable fire extinguishers and a fire alarm system the alarm system was not tied to an automatic response system to the fire department and the building was not equipped with a sprinkler system. Besides the front door, the building had exits off the bar and dance floor areas, both leading directly outside. The building also had an exterior door in the kitchen area (Duval, 2006) . The stage area was equipped with a sound proofing material to lower the noise levels of the nightclub for the surrounding neighbors. This foam was later found to be flammable (Tucker, 2008).
On the night of February 20, 2003, the night club was busy as several bands were present to entertain the patrons. With around 462 patrons present it was over its estimated occupancy rating of 420 people (Tidwell, 2012). A camera crew was on scene filming the events of the night doing a special report on night clubs. This camera was able to catch the fire start and the incident unfold in real time. As part of one of the band’s, Great White, acts pyrotechnics were to be used.
The video shot at the scene the night of the fire shows the fire start, quickly grow, and destroy the building (Youtube, 2018). The film is real time and paints a realistic picture of the occurrence. At the start of the video the band can be seen playing and the pyrotechnics being lit off. The camera pans away from the band to look at the crowd but when it comes back fire can be seen in the top corners of the foam sound proofing material. This starts the real time clock at about 30 seconds into the video. The video shows little reaction from the crowd initially but within about 10 seconds the crowd realizes what is occurring and they can be seen moving towards the front door. The alarm system can heard signaling the evacuation 30 seconds into the fire. At this point the cameraman is seen spinning around capturing the scene of the fire. The fire has spread across the stage wall. Later in court it will be argued by lawyers that this camera shot impeded the evacuation process. It is estimated that the first 911 call was imitated soon after this (Tidwell, 2012). The camera can be seen at shown smoke at the front entrance in the breathing zone of those evacuating the building in less than one minute from the start of the fire. A little more than a minute the cameraman is outside through the front door with smoke coming out the door as well. The camera man than makes his way around the building to see what is happening. Fire can be seen on the outside of the building and black smoke coming out of the bottom of the sunroom windows. At ninety seconds on the clock the cameraman makes his way back to the front of the building to find a horrifying sight. The internal alarm is no longer being heard and in the six-foot wide opening of the front door are people wedged and trapped in the doorway trying to get out of the building with others desperately trying to pull them out of the doorway. The smoke coming out of the doorway is getting denser, blacker and lower. The camera captures the sound of breaking glass as trapped patrons break the front windows of the bar area to be able to crawl out of the window.

Duval, Robert. (2006). NFPA Case Study: Nightclub Fires. NFPA Retrieved from
Tidwell, Jim (2012). The station night club fire: Revisiting the lessons. Fire Engineering. Retrieved from
Tucker, Eric. (2008). Foam company offers 6.3 Million in nightclub fire. South Coast Today Retrieved
Youtube (2018). The station night club fire. Youtube. Retrieved from
NBC (2003). RI Station Nightclub Fire Survivor Raul “Mike” Vargas Recounts His Harrowing Ordeal. Retrieved from

Teaching points
The Station fire to date is the fourth deadliest fire in the United States that resulted in 100 deaths and more than 186 injuries. This was caught on video from the very start of the fire showing the evacuation and the activities that occurred as the incident unfolded. This real time video is easily accessible and used in conjunction with this case study can be used in promoting critical thinking towards emergency/disaster preparedness, emergency action plans, community preparedness and other topics.

At the conclusion of this case exercise the student will be able to

  • Discuss the speed of fire progression in a structure
  • Identify key elements of emergency action planning that were done and not done
  • Give examples of human nature during emergencies
  • Discuss preparedness concepts that could have been implemented in this case that would likely have reduced or minimized losses in this incident

Research Method
This project utilizes case study methodology with triangulation of data from secondary sources. This mixed method case examined the Station Night Club fire in Warwick Rhode Island to determine what actions an individual, organization, and/or community might take to prevent or minimize the damages from a local emergency such as a fire in a public venue.

Key Discussion Points of Video

As the video is being shown to the participants look for key elements to stop the video to point out key points of what they are seeing. The following are some of the key points:
NOTE: The video can be found on YOUTUBE ( and other video sites. Some times this site moves, if this happens conduct an internet search for Rhode Island Station fire to find it. There are different versions of the video choose the video of 13 minutes or longer.
NOTE: This video does have a graphic nature in the fact that it does show real injury and death. Keep this in mind as you use this case study.
Go over background of case prior to showing video
Start of video – shows band begin to play and the use of pyrotechnics
At about the 30 second mark on the video counter the camera pans back to the band this will be when the real time clock starts at time zero. NOTE these times are approximate and may be interpreted a little different by viewer or by video version used.
Time zero point out the fires at the top corners (The following times are all counter time – 30 seconds)
10 seconds – point out the delay in audience response to the fire
25 seconds – crowd realizes what is happening, band stops playing exits rear of building
30 seconds – the alarm goes off – this alarm was not connected to an auto call to 911
35 seconds – point out crowd reaction main crowd heads to front door, band leaves out back door – point out human nature is to do what is known meaning come in the front door go out the front door. The band came in the back door and left out the back door.
40 seconds – note the camera man is walking backwards filming the fire behind, this was later brought up in court as a potential hinderance for victims to escape.
45 seconds – point out the choke point for evacuees as they enter through the foyer area at the front of the club. Notice that smoke is already in the breathing zone at the front of the club at this point
1 min 20 seconds – notice carefully the black smoke coming out from the bottom of the wall indicating a pressurized smoke condition from ceiling to floor in the building at this point.

NOTE Graphic part of the video

1 min 30 seconds – Note as the cameraman comes around the building chaos can be heard. The camera focusses on people that are laid in the 6 foot open door way wedged and stuck in the doorway. Note bystanders trying to pull these people out but are unable to.
1 min. 38 seconds – Sound of breaking glass can be heard as the front windows are broken and victims are seen leaving through the windows. Talking point as to fact that open windows create better ventilation for the fire and will lead the fire to the source of air but in this case it did allow some victims to escape that may not have otherwise been able to.
1 min 44 seconds – note one of the bystanders trying to pull victims out of the door is removing his coat. Remind students this is Rhode Island in February, it is cold outside. Encourage them to watch how long he leaves his coat off. Notice that the audible fire alarm is no longer heard
2 minutes – notice the rescuer puts his coat on, presumably this is due to the heat of the fire and the coat had been protecting his arms from the immense heat coming from the doorway and the smoke.
2 min 30 seconds – point out the commands the bystanders give to get people out of the building but no plan in place. Notice the gentleman in the orange coat passing by the camera with what appears to be smoot around his nose and mouth. This is a good time to discuss the need for an emergency action plan and the need for someone to take care of the survivors outside to ensure they remain survivors. This man likely has Carbon Monoxide exposure and needs to be sat down in a safe area to minimize exertion and be monitored until emergency medical help arrives.
This is also a good time to discuss where the first responders are. An average response time nationally for fire and EMS strives for seven minutes. All organizations should be prepared to take care of the situation until responders arrive.
3 min 30 seconds Note the woman in the picture rubbing her hair and face. This is a good point to talk about how different people may deal or not deal well with the situation. Some people may react very irrationally and try to go back into the building for keys, wallet, husband etc. If it is thought that this woman may act irrational for example she should be taken where she can be observed and kept safe until more help arrives.
4 minutes and 13 seconds – Emergency sirens can be heard coming onto the scene. Point out that this is a good response time. If talking to responders discuss what things are they coming into as they step out of their vehicle.
5 min 20 seconds – notice the guy talking about the people burning and the tone of his voice. This is a good point for discussion mental health needs following an incident such as this and how it will be arranged and handled.
5 min 30 seconds – Notice the cry for “Need a Medic” This is obviously an injured person that is outside the fire and probably savable if help can be found. Good point to discuss the importance of basic first aide training that would allow others to help possibly save this life.
5 min 37 seconds it is hard ot see at first but point out the guy laying on the ground at th crowd of people and have the audience what happens as bystanders try to help firefighters pull hose to the fire.
5 min and 40 second mark watch the fire as a man on fire can be seen exiting from center screen to left side.
6 min – the fire hose can be seen being pulled over the moving man with no help to move him. Good conversations for this is the idea that people want to help in times of need but are not trained in what to do so they follow the lead and what they think is happening. What really needed to happen is for some of the crowd to move this guy to a staging area for Emergency medical care so he can be triaged, treated and transported if needed. This needs to be done in a safe area away from the firefighting activities.
1 hour and 20 minutes – Live victims found at bottom of the pile of bodies including Raul “Mike” Vargas who survived with only burn on his legs. (NBC, 2003).

Discussion Questions

Discussion Question Answers


References / Literature review

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