Within several moments the palm tree burst into flames and caused panic among the patrons. What ensued in the following moments was total pandemonium as the patrons tried to exit all at once through the only public exit from the Melody lounge. Most of the furniture caught fire as toxic gas engulfed the room. It was combination of the fire followed by sheer panic and inhalation of poisonous gas that resulted in the death of 492 people, making it one of the worst fire incidents in the history of America. (Fire Story: The Cocoanut Grove Fire, 1942) When and how this fire happened and what fire codes were violated can be known after an evaluation of the incident. This paper attempts to answer these questions by evaluating the available information.
On the day of the incident a football match took place between the teams of Boston College (BC) and the Holy Cross College (HC) at Fenway Park. Contrary to everyone’s expectation HC won which resulted in cancellation of victory party by BC that was to take place in the Cocoanut Grove nightclub. Had the party been taken place, then the death toll would have been higher than the actual number (Grant, 2007). A crowd of over 1000 people which was more than the number of people allowed were having dinner in the “first-floor Broadway Lounge and basement-level Melody Lounge”. Most of them were there to celebrate the victory of HC (Beller, 2000, p.85).
A busboy was told to fix a light bulb on the top of an artificial palm tree which was situated in the corner of the Melody Lounge. The bulb was unscrewed by a patron to enjoy some private moments with his date. Since the area around the corner was dark the busboy lit a match to locate the socket and immediately afterwards several patrons saw a flame in the palm tree. The view of the corner can be seen in Figure 1. The color of the decorations began to change but there was no visible flame