Patron Capacity Unclear in R.I. Fire

Confusion over the maximum capacity at a nightclub that burned last month is hindering answers to two key questions _ whether too many patrons were let in and whether the club had enough exits.


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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
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

WEST WARWICK, R.I. (AP) -- Confusion over the maximum capacity at a nightclub that burned last month is hindering answers to two key questions _ whether too many patrons were let in and whether the club had enough exits.

West Warwick Town Manager Wolfgang Bauer said Tuesday that two documents give conflicting maximum capacities at The Station, where 99 people were killed and more than 180 were injured in a fire Feb. 20.

``We are just trying to make sure which paper is valid,'' said Bauer, who did not reveal the number in either document.

The state fire marshal's office said Tuesday it was looking into what role the building's four exits may have played in the disaster. According to search warrant documents, investigators had taken three metal doors and one wood door from the rubble.

Bauer said a grand jury would be looking into the issue of maximum capacity this week as part of its investigation into the fire. Several documents have been subpoenaed.

State Fire Marshal Irving J. Owens said officials were trying to determine maximum capacity by measuring square footage and reviewing ways the owners may have increased the number of people allowed, such as by removing pool tables.

State officials have estimated that more than 300 people were in the club at the time of the fire. Initial reports said the allowable capacity was 300.

Also Tuesday, Gov. Don Carcieri said Rhode Island will get federal help to recover from the fire, including money from the Department of Health and Human Services and low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration. Carcieri met with Bush administration officials over the weekend.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied the state's request for millions in disaster aid to pay overtime for rescuers, equipment and other costs.