A Crisis That Saved Lives Essay

909 words - 4 pages

During a night of celebrating the holidays, a tragic fire struck the heart of downtown Tucson, Arizona, the Pioneer International Hotel. The hotel towered 11 stories in the air and hosted guests resting in their rooms as well as approximately 650 others that celebrated in the banquet room and other meeting rooms. Shortly after midnight on December 20th, 1970 a fire ignited that took twenty-eight lives that night and contributing to another death nine months later. The devastation that night spurred a wave of changes to local buildings that would make safety a priority.
The fire was said to have been set in two separate locations in a hallway on the fourth floor by 16-year-old Louis C. Taylor. The fire spread throughout the hallway and trapped approximately 60 people in their rooms. Some victims tried to escape the flames and smoke by jumping out of upper level windows onto mattresses that had been thrown out first. Others fell victim to the flames, while others never knew what was happening as they passed away in their sleep from carbon monoxide poisoning. The fire had the ability and means to spread through the hallway and up the stairs due to the lack of doors to separate individual floor levels. Investigator Bill Martin described this by stating “There was an opening essentially from the bottom to the top. It was just like a chimney, a fireplace” (as cited in The worst day, n.d., Investigators determine the blaze section). Without the placement of doors to separate floor levels from the hallway, fire and smoke had an unobstructed path to spread both laterally and horizontally throughout the motel.
The hotel lacked smoke alarms that are designed to warn people of a fire. Without this warning system many people never woke up and died in their sleep as smoke spread throughout the floors above the fire, asphyxiating guests by means carbon monoxide poisoning. Having a smoke alarm would have warned people at an early stage of the fire, potentially saving lives. Along with not having an alarm system, the hotel lacked a fire-suppression system that would have been the victims’ first line of defense. If the hotel had possessed a suppression system, the fire may have been extinguished at the incipient stage. Even in the event the fire was not extinguished, the fires’ rapid growth may have been slowed, giving fire personnel more time to reach victims before they perished. The rapid growth of the fire was contributed to the carpeting which was highly flammable, the interior finish that consisted of wallpaper and to Christmas decorations that decorated the hotel. The fire spread that can be contributed to the Christmas decorations can be said to have been untimely, yet the carpeting and interior finishes that contributed could have been avoided if requirements were in place. Had the...

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