230 Dead in Nightclub Fire: Brazil Blaze Conjures Memories of Rhode Island

Monday, 28 Jan 2013 09:34 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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The fire that ripped through a Brazilian nightclub and claimed more than 200 lives Sunday conjures memories of a tragedy a decade ago in Rhode Island.

In 2003, 100 people were killed at The Station, a Rhode Island nightclub in West Warwick, when a rock band's pyrotechnics show ignited the highly flammable insulation.

The same thing happened Sunday at the Boate Kiss club in Santa Maria, in southern Brazil, when police say a flare went off and set the ceiling on fire, according to Reuters. An estimated 500 people were at the concert, and police said overcrowding and blocked exits contributed to the death toll.

John Barylick, the author of "Killer Show," a book about the Rhode Island fire, hopes that people will conclude "useful lessons" from the disasters.

"I am shocked by the similarities between the two fires," Barylick, who also served as a lead attorney representing victims in the Rhode Island fire, wrote in a USA Today column Sunday. He cited the improper use of indoor pyrotechnics; flammable wall and ceiling coverings; gross overcrowding; inadequate fire suppression devices such as automatic sprinklers; inadequate exits; and poorly trained club staff.

"Every one of the above failures was motivated, in part, by greed," Barylick said. "The desire to sell more tickets, to sell spectacle, to save money on decorations and soundproofing, and to employ bouncers cheaply — all contributed to the loss of life in Rhode Island — and probably in Brazil, too."

Rhode Island responded with concrete changes to its fire codes and enforcement policies in the wake of the 2003 fire and hopefully Brazil will do the same, Barylick wrote. But, he continued, people cannot always count on the system to protect them.

"We need to be our own best fire marshals," he said. "To be safe, go with your gut. If it feels wrong, or dangerous, leave. No show is worth your life."

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