Few Changes After Club Blaze Killed 100

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- One year after a rock band's pyrotechnics set a nightclub ablaze, killing 100 people and injuring scores of others, only Rhode Island has enacted sweeping new fire safety measures dealing with everything from fire sprinklers to upgrading older buildings.

The deadly Rhode Island blaze prompted fire marshals across the nation to review their safety inspections. At least 15 states debated tougher laws, mostly dealing with pyrotechnics, and a national fire safety association approved more stringent safety recommendations. But national fire safety experts say it could take years for many other states to follow Rhode Island's lead.

The Incident
First-In: Heroic Rescues
Death Toll Rises to 97
At Least 96 Dead in Inferno
Rescuers Struggle with Horror
Fire, Smoke Turns Club Into Hell
Discuss the Warwick Tragedy

The Aftermath
Changes to Safety Laws Since R.I. Fire
Few Changes After Club Blaze Killed 100
Web Site Comforts RI Patients
RI Gov. Orders Strict Inspections
2 Families Sue in RI Club Blaze
RI Nightclub Claims May Total $1B
RI Nightclub Death Toll Rises to 98
Victims Face Long Recovery
All But 4 Victims ID'd
Thousands Mourn Victims
IDs Could Take Days
Family, Friends Search
9/11 Widow Reflects
Survivors Recall Heroic Acts

The Investigation
Patron Capacity Unclear in RI Fire
Band Member Testifies
RI Reports Don't Mention Foam
Fire Inspector Report Released
Post-9/11 Drills Aid Club Rescue
Federal Team Launches Probe
Grand Jury Begins Probe
Brannigan: Inspectors Ready?
Investigation Ramps Up
Investigators Check Soundproof
Pyrotechnics Examined in Clubs
Disasters Prompt Inspections
Sprinklers Not Required
Nightclub Up to Code Before Fire
Town Withholds Records
RI Begins Inspections
No Warning of Pyro Use
Pyrotechnics Usually Safe
Atty: RI Club Rep. OK'd Pyrotech.
Fire Challenges State Atty. Gen.
IDs Weighed Heavy on Dentists
FEMA Denies Disaster Aid for Fire

Photos & Video
IBS Scene SlideShow
ABC: The Fire Starts
WJAR Video Feedroom

History of Tragedies
Carter: History Strikes Again
Fire, Life Safety Laws in Front
Tragedy Recalls Cocoanut Grove
Worst Club Tragedies
Nightclub Disasters Too Familiar
List: Worst Club Tragedies

Related Sites
West Warwick Fire Department
Warwick Fire Department
FH Network: Rhode Island
Providence Journal Coverage

``It's not my sense that (the Rhode Island) fire is poised to make profound change,'' said David Lucht, director of the Center for Firesafety Studies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. ``We don't as a society take fire safety that seriously.''

Since the nation's fourth-deadliest nightclub fire, eight other states _ Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, New York and North Carolina _ approved tighter rules for indoor fireworks. Cities also debated changes, with Boston banning indoor pyrotechnics.

``The fire absolutely put the issue on the radar screen,'' said Julie Heckman, executive director of the Maryland-based American Pyrotechnics Association. ``What we saw in Rhode Island was the blatant misuse of indoor pyrotechnics.''

The association, which includes 260 companies, wants all states to adopt uniform standards and licensing requirements for fireworks use.

The Rhode Island blaze _ sparked by a pyrotechnic show by the band Great White _ was the impetus for standards approved last summer by the Quincy, Mass.-based National Fire Protection Association. The group now recommends requiring sprinklers in every new club serving at least 50 patrons, and in every existing club serving at least 100.

Thirty-four states, including Rhode Island, voluntarily adopted the group's previous recommendations. It could be another decade before the association knows how broadly its new standards will be adopted, said NFPA assistant Vice President Robert Solomon.

``It will be a more drawn-out process,'' he said. ``We've seen good things come from these types of tragedies.''

State Rep. Peter Ginaitt, a Warwick firefighter who was among the first responders to the nightclub fire, said Rhode Island won't consider the new NFPA standards until the state evaluates the effect of its own new regulations.

The state's new code prohibits pyrotechnics in all but its largest public venues, and most nightclubs must have sprinklers by July 2005. The code also gets rid of the ``grandfathering'' statutes that allowed older buildings to ignore new safety standards.

Many of the changes go into effect on Feb. 20, the first anniversary of the fire.

Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri said he hoped the new regulations ``would set the stage for what happens nationwide, to make sure this never happens again.''

But even in Rhode Island, lawmakers faced resistance from businesses concerned about the cost of sprinklers. Some officials also doubted the state's ability to enforce the phased-in requirements.

``It hurt to make those changes because we knew we were hurting the people who would ultimately pay'' for sprinklers and other improvements, said Ginaitt, who was co-chairman of a state commission that recommended many of the new safety regulations.

While the legacy of The Station fire outside Rhode Island may be uncertain, it's clearly changed attitudes in the nation's smallest state.

``There's a greater awareness, not only on the part of owners but their patrons,'' said Bill Howe, chief of inspections for the state fire marshal. ``We get more complaints ... people who might have accepted things in the past no longer do.''

Some businesses, such as West Warwick's Cowesett Inn, have taken their own safety measures.

The inn, which is across the street from where The Station stood and served as a makeshift triage center on the night of the fire, has added a diagram of the restaurant to the back of its menus. Evacuation plans are now posted on the walls, and the staff counts patrons to avoid overcrowding.

``They're not required to do it, it's just good fire prevention,'' state Fire Marshal Irving Owens said.