The deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history occurred in Boston on November 28, 1942. The coalition includes the Boston Fire Department, the Boston Fire Historical Society, Boston Fire Museum, City of Boston Archives, Boston Public Library, and Massachusetts General Hospital.
According to Sue Marsh, the NFPA’s librarian, time was of the essence as all agreed that it was vital not to let more time pass before gathering additional resources, especially personal accounts from those impacted by the fire, “knowing that if we didn’t, things would be lost.”
Three videos in which Cocoanut Grove fire victims tell their stories exemplify the rich content that has come from these collections and this project.
All of the organizations represented in the coalition have material related to the fire. The intent of the project, according to Marsh, is to provide a single way to access all of the information as well as attract additional information that is out there but has not surfaced.
The NFPA library receives more requests related to Cocoanut Grove than any other incident.
“Unlike some earlier landmark fires, like the Triangle Shirtwaist Co. fire in New York in 1911, the Cocoanut Grove fire did not result in significant changes to NFPA codes,” writes Fred Durso, Jr. in the November / December 2012 issue of the NFPA Journal.
However, Boston and municipalities throughout the country underwent sweeping changes, including the reclassification of nightclubs and restaurants as places of public assembly, which is how they were already regarded in the Building Exits Code. The change introduced more stringent requirements for exits, emergency lighting, occupancy capacities, and other safety features.”
For more information, visit The Cocoanut Grove Fire website, www.cocoanutgrovefire.org.