April 2013
Prevention 52 fire helmet
Take Action

1) No matter where you are, identify at least two ways out of that building. If you cannot see an exit from where you are sitting or standing, relocate closer to an exit or just GET OUT!


2) The Station nightclub fire was the 8th deadliest public assembly fire in U.S. history.

The Kiss fire was the 3rd deadliest nightclub fire in the world. We have the ability and responsibility to make sure that the NPS is never on this list. Take action today!



NPS Fire Facts

The Rhythm Night Club Fire in Natchez, MS in 1940 is unfortunately another good example of an assembly fire where the decorations were a contributing factor in the fire. That night, the concert was the place to be, and sadly the town lost an entire generation in one fire. It is thought that a tossed cigarette ignited dry Spanish moss that was used extensively as a ceiling decoration throughout the concert hall. This Firehouse article is excellent and outlines the very sad story and the good lessons we learned from it.   

The Structural Fire Program has developed many resources to help you provide an effective fire prevention program in your park.


Visit our website at:

Regional Structural Fire Staff:
Alaska - Alan Wetzel
Intermountain - Todd Neitzel
Midwest - Kip Schwabe
National Capital - Don Boucher
National Capital Fire Prevention Specialist - Raul Castillo
Northeast - Joe Mazzeo
Northeast Fire Prevention Specialist - Donna Baumgaertner
Pacific West - Curtis Troutt
Southeast - Jim King

For more fire prevention resources go to:

Submit ideas and feedback:
Assembly Occupancies 
Author: Donna Baumgaertner, Northeast Region Structural Fire Prevention Specialist
It seems like yesterday; but it was actually ten years ago, that The Station nightclub fire occurred in Warwick, Rhode Island, killing 100 people. The insanity happens again in Santa Maria, Brazil at the Kiss nightclub when a fire breaks out killing 233 people. Almost the exact same scenario occurred at both venues: a fire starts due to pyrotechnics during the performance, exits were blocked by employees, fire suppression systems were not installed, and the maximum amount of people safely allowed in the buildings was far exceeded. 


Now imagine if something this horrendous happened in an NPS building? While NPS is not known for rock concerts, there are park units where many visitors gather to listen to ranger talks, attend living history events, or wait for a tour. Here's what we can learn from the nightclub fires.



Both fires were started by using outdoor pyrotechnics indoors. The pyrotechnics sent sparks to nearby ceilings and walls filling the area with flames and smoke within seconds. In both cases it took less than two minutes to turn a great evening into an inferno.


Blocked Exits

In both fires, bouncers or security personnel turned people away from exits, thinking people were trying to skip out on paying their bills. One person at the Kiss described the main exit as a "small door for lots of people to come out by." Yes, there was only ONE exit. In the Station nightclub, the stage and kitchen blocked exits.  Bodies and injured people blocked access for firefighters.


Fire Suppression

Neither nightclub was protected by a sprinkler system. Fire extinguishers were hidden, inaccessible or inoperable.


Occupancy Loads

Both nightclub occupancy loads were well exceeded the night of the fire. The Station had over 462 patrons in the building at the time of the fire.  The occupancy load, as documented by the fire inspector, was not to exceed 299. At The Kiss, it was estimated that there were more than 2,000 patrons in a building that did not have a fire safety certificate. Busy park days can see huge crowds of visitors, so be sure to keep an eye out if a building or space is getting too crowded.



Officials in Brazil inspected and closed more than 50 nightclubs to crack down on unsafe public spaces. The Kiss owner, security chief, and the band manager were arrested and questioned. The owner tried to commit suicide.

Of the two brothers that owned The Station, one was sentenced to 4 years in prison and 3 years' probation.  The other has not served any jail time, but was sentenced to 3 years' probation and 500 hours of community service. The tour manager for the band was sentenced to 4 years in prison with 3 years' probation.


Just for You 

Historic structures were not built with current fire code in mind, and visitors in an unknown space can be unaware of usable fire exits. Read this P52 on Fire Escape Planning.  

Park Structural Fire Coordinators

Coordinate with all park divisions to prepare an evacuation plan for all buildings that have assembly occupancy. Once the plan has been written make sure that it is implemented and all staff members know their responsibilities in a fire.  An assembly occupancy is:

  1. used for the gathering of 50 or more persons for the deliberation, worship, entertainment, eating, drinking, amusement, awaiting transportation or similar uses or
  2. is a special amusement building, regardless of occupant load.
Be aware of hazards other than pyrotechnics. For example, assemblies are also regulated for combustible finishes and decorations, combustible vegetation, temporary wiring, use of open flames,  such as candles or demonstrations, temporary cooking equipment using open flame, and temporary LPG or Natural gas piping, hoses and appliances, are often planned for assembly occupancy events. Always make sure these activities are carefully evaluated and approved by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) prior to allowing these activities to occur. 


Prevention 52 begins with you!

Prevention 52 intends to educate and empower all NPS employees to help prevent structural fires.

Prevention 52 provides you with relevant fire prevention messages every week of the year - 52 to be exact.

You have the opportunity every week to make a difference. Don't let historic ashes become your legacy.
National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior

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