Perm Russia, a city of 1.2 million people located in the Ural mountain region, approximately 1,200 km east of Moscow, was the scene of a deadly fire last Friday night in which between 103 and 113 people lost their lives. Reports still have not confirmed the final death toll at the time of writing. The scene of the fire was the Lame Horse Restaurant where an indoor pyrotechnics display ignited the nightclub holding 230 patrons at around 11:00pm. The causes of death were smoke inhalation and bodies being crushed to death as people scrambled to escape the burning building. As a result Premier Vladimir Putin has ordered a government commission to probe the cause of the fire and has vowed to punish those who were at fault. In truth the problem lies within the Russian fire regulations which are notoriously lax, Russia experiences a much higher frequency of fires especially deadly ones as compared with other western countries. This would be notably higher as compared with Ontario where fire safety programs and an enforceable fire code have been very successful in reducing the number of deadly fires. It is hopeful that as a result of this fire better fire safety programs and stricter enforcement of fire regulations will be adopted by Russian fire authorities to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future. The eerie aspect of the conditions and cause of the Russian fire for people in the fire service is the similarity to a blaze that occurred at The Station nightclub on February 20th, 2003 in West Warwick, Rhode Island where 100 people lost their lives. This fire was as well caused by pyrotechnics set off in the nightclub and also started at 11:00pm. The circumstances and results virtually mirror each other in the way the fires started and the speed in which the buildings became fully engulfed. Once again in the fire service we often learn at the expense of others, however it is unconceivable why tragedies like this need to be repeated. It is one thing when a fire occurs due to an unexpected occurrence, or the introduction of new substances, but to repeat the same mistake over and over again and expect different results is insanity. Since the year 2000, over 745 people have perished worldwide in nightclub fires and in most cases theses deaths could have easily been prevented; adequate and clearly marked exits, and the installation of sprinkler systems would likely have reduced these numbers to near zero. So the next time you hear someone moaning about a building inspection or having to fix code violations think about the consequences if these checks were not made.
Published Dec 9, 2009 - Russell Villager