Friday, February 21, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Once Burnt, Twice Shy

02.24.03 Update: from United Press International

First, the E2/Epitome tragedy in Chicago, now a deadly blaze at a Rhode Island nightclub when stage pyrotechnics ignited flammable sound insulation at a Great White show. You may remember Great White's late-80's pop-metal hit "Once Bitten, Twice Shy": okay, so the title of this post is in poor taste. Sue me.

The band's management said they received the club owner's permission to use flaming special effects, but wouldn't you hope the road crew might have some training to judge whether open flames are safe to use at a particular venue? Checking back on updates on this developing story, it seems there are conflicting accounts over whether the band actually received permission to use fireworks during the show.
CNN describes one eyewitness account:

Initially, fans casually made their way toward the exit. Then panic broke out, according to videographer Brian Butler, who was taping the rock concert for a story on nightclub safety. Firefighters work at the entrance to The Station, trying to find victims and control the blaze. "It was that fast. As soon as the pyrotechnics stopped, the flame had started on the egg-crate [foam] backing behind the stage and it just went up the ceiling and people stood and watched it," Butler said. The video showed piles of people lying on top of each other, trying to push their way out of the club.

"Some people were already trying to leave and others were just sitting there going 'Yeah that's great!' and I remember that statement because I was like, 'This is not great, this is time to leave,'" the videographer said. As the flames spread inside the one-story building, band members jumped off the stage and joined the crowd, heading toward the exit.
Who is at fault? It's hard to tell just yet. Using any kind of fireworks inside a relatively small, enclosed club sounds like poor judgement, but then, so does not having a sprinkler system - reports say The Station wasn't required to have sprinklers under the local fire code, but if I were a club owner, I think I'd want to cover my a** in case a fire broke out. It didn't have to be a flashpot that started the blaze - it could just have easily been a shorted electrical cable, an overheated light, even a misplaced cigarette. Unlike Monday's Chicago nightclub stampede, I don't know if the deaths could have entirely been prevented once the fire broke out - sources say the entire Rhode Island club building was fully involved in less than five minutes. That's not a lot of time to evacuate a frightened crowd.

I don't know about you, but I think I'll be staying away from nightclubs and such for the foreseeable future. Al-Qaeda's enough to worry about for the time being.