A few Claims readers and contributors I know subscribe to an insurance/risk management Internet chat-line called Riskmail. I was out of town during most of January but, when I got back, there were a bunch of entries discussing a nightclub fire in West Warwick, R.I. I had read about it in the pages of my favorite loss-related monthly magazine, Firehouse (Cygnus Business Media), back in April 2003. On Feb. 20 of that year, a fire started by pyrotechnics at The Station resulted in 99 deaths and 190 injuries. The fireworks ignited foam insulation intended to deaden noise. Noise was not all that it deadened.

One comment led to another and, soon, we all were submitting bids on what had been a comparable or worse restaurant or nightclub fire. Certainly the 1942 Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston (see Claims, March 2000) was high on that list with 491 dead. It was not alone, however. As reported in that article, a number of major fires had preceded it, including the 603 lives lost in 1903 in Chicago’s Iroquois Theater, and the 146 female garment workers killed in New York’s 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire. There also was the dance hall fire in Natchez in 1940 that killed 198 fun-seekers.

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