Remembering the Station Fire
The Station Fire: The 4th Deadliest Nightclub Fire in American History
February 20th marks the anniversary of The Station Nightclub Fire, one of the deadliest nightclub fires in American history. Thursday February 20, 2003; in West Warwick R.I., patrons of The Station Nightclub were enjoying the music of Great White. This hard rock band, originally formed in Los Angeles, had been around since 1978. Great White's tour manager set off pyrotechnics which ignited sound dampening foam on the walls and ceiling surrounding the stage. There were 462 people there that night. Only 132 people make it out unscathed, 230 people were injured, 100 died!
My Memories of This Time
I remember this time so clearly. I was finishing my undergraduate degree from Rhode Island College. That Thursday, people on campus were talking about the show. I had been asked if I were going, but to my fortune, so many factors led me to decline the invitation. It was my niece's birthday, I had so much studying to do for the nursing program and I also had a 7 month old at home. I was sitting in the living room studying, after putting my son to bed, when I heard "Breaking News" from the television that was on as background noise. I stared at the news report in disbelief; thinking of the terror everyone must be facing; wondering if my peers and friends were alive or dead. I remember feeling guilty for thinking 'Thank God I hadn't gone, thank God it wasn't me!' It was a couple of days before I learned for certain that I had lost a friend in the fire that night. I wasn't alone in my grief. Mothers and fathers lost their sons and daughters, children lost their parents, husbands, wives, co-workers... No one is safe from fire. The age range of those who perished in that tragic fire was 18-46 years old.
The next morning the reports flooded in. "It's the bands fault because they used pyrotechnics without the permission of the club." "The club owners are at fault because they ignored fire hazards and consented to the use of pyrotechnics anyway." "Exits were blocked by bouncers who told patrons to find another exit because this one was for band use only." "At first people thought the fire was part of the show and stood around watching... Later they stampeded each other, blocking the exit, leaving so many trapped inside." A misfortunate series of tragedies that resulted in 4th deadliest nightclub fire in American history.
Some of the Facts
- Acoustic sound proofing foam had been installed around the stage by the club owners in an attempt to appease neighbors that would often complain about the noise level of the club.
- The club had been sighted for fire code violations for the past two years. They addressed these violations with temporary solutions during the time of the inspection but would revert the club to its previous state once the inspection was completed.
- The Station Nightclub had no sprinkler system.
- There were fire extinguishers in the building but not located near the fire.
- The heat and fire detectors went off at 41 seconds after the fire started.
- Fire trucks were on the scene in less than 5 minutes from the initial 911 call.
- 100 men and women met their untimely end and perished in The Station Fire of February 20, 2003
You Can't Put a Price on Lives Lost
Nothing can ever make up for the abrupt and untimely end of a life. No price can suffice for the years of memories and experiences that will never take place. No parent should have to bury their child, no child should have to grow up without parents. One hundred people died on February 20, 2003, but thousands of people were effected by the tragic events of that day. They say time heals all wounds, but there may not be enough time in one lifetime to heal the wounds from The Station Fire.
The Great White band manager, Daniel Michel Biechele pled guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter on February 7, 2006; and was sentenced to serve 4 years in prison, 11 years suspended sentence and 3 years probation. Daniel Michel Biechele was released from prison March 19, 2008.
Nightclub owners Michael Derderian and Jeffrey Derderian pled no contest to 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter. Michael Derderian was sentenced to serve 4 years in prison, 11 years suspended sentence and 3 years probation. Michael Derderian was released from prison in June 2009. Jeffrey Derderian was sentenced to 10 years suspended sentence and 3 years probation, and 500 hours of community service.
Nearly $175 million in settlements, from various defendants, has been offered to the families of the victims of The Station Fire of 2003. Defendants include: WPRI-TV, JBL Speakers, Anheuser-Busch, McLaughlin & Moran, Clear Channel Broadcasting, Home Depot, Polar Industries, Sealed Air Corporation, The State of Rhode Island and the town of West Warwick, the band Great White, and club owners Michael Derderian and Jeffrey Derderian.
Words of Advise
Follow a few safety tips at crowded public events:
- Look at your surroundings. Does the building look safe and clutter free? Is there a wide exit?
- Locate all of your exits.
- Notice if there are sprinklers, fire hydrants, and smoke detectors/alarms.
- Do you feel safe? If not, follow you instincts and leave...it's not worth your life.
- If a fire does occur, calmly leave through the nearest exit. Once you are out, back away from the building. Please do not linger and add to the traffic and chaos.
- Report potential fire hazards. You could be saving lives. Each city handles the reporting of potential fire hazards uniquely. If you see a potential fire hazard don't just look the other way. Find out what your city needs you to do to help keep it safe.
In Memory of the 100 Men and Women who Died in The Station Fire on February 20, 2003.