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This Day in History, 1942: Cocoanut Grove Fire

On November 28, 1942, sixty-three years ago today, the Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire in Boston took the lives of 492 people.

"On the fateful Saturday night the Grove was filled to well over capacity, when at 10:10 PM a small fire broke out in the Melody Lounge located in the basement of the Grove’s main ballroom."

"Within twelve minutes, flames and lethal smoke enveloped the entire Grove complex. By 10:45, firefighters had extinguished all flames and were inside the Grove searching for survivors. But in that short period of time, 492 victims were dead or later died in area hospitals."

"The bulk of the victims were taken to Boston City Hospital. Mass. General received the second largest number with Beth Israel, Carney, Faulkner, Mass. Memorial, Peter Bent Brigham, St. Elizabeth’s, St. Margaret’s, Cambridge City and Malden City receiving lesser numbers."

(Post quoted from Rhode Island Fire Disaster Recalls Memories of Cocoanut Grove. Also, the Boston Globe's archives have an excellent article about the event from the 50th anniversary here: The Cocoanut Grove Inferno.)

Comments

my paternal grandfather was a firefighter from 1939 to 1974. As a result I had an unusual interest in disastrous fires in history. While most preschoolers would be having Dr Seuss read to them, I was reading the book "Famous Fires" to them at that age. By the time I was 6, I knew the details of the Cocoanut Grove, Triangle Shirtwaist, Morro Castle and Hindenburg fires, among others. The Beverly Hills Supper Club fire happened towards the tail end of that first childhood fixation (around 1976 or77) and renewed the interest.

This reminds me, with my grandparents and father passed away, i have to look through the collection brought up from Florida in 2003 for that book as well as the rest of my grandfather's collection.
I have no connection to firefighting in my family, but as you've seen, I do like to make sure that the victims of tragedies are not forgotten.

There's a new book out this month about Cocoanut Grove, FYI.
LIke the Rhode Island Nightclub fire, the Cocoanut Grove fire sparked outrage. Most of the victims died because, as in Rhode Island, they couldn't get out. It forever changed building codes (rules about non-flammable decorations, the directions of doors, fire exits, etc.).
Sadly, though, this type of history repeats itself time and again. There's a big fire that leads to new building codes, but then another big fire hits, and building codes are revised again.

(Anonymous)

This is so true

As I read the story about the Rhode Island fire I ask myself how many more people must die before something is done to prevent it. I have gone into nightclubs and walked out knowing that there were to many people in the building. I was ignored when I mentioned that if a fire broke out not everyone would make it out. It saddens me to read things like this because someone choose to ignore the warning signs of impending danger. In the span of a minute 100 lives were lost and it didn't have to happen.

(Anonymous)

The Station Nightclub fire

I am a firefighter of 23 years. I am also going to school for Criminal Justice. I read that the people held responsible for the Cocoanut Grove fire spent time in prison. In my opinion they didn't spend enough time there. I think when the trials start for the fire at the Station Nightclub more truths will be brought to light and more people will be indited on simimular charges. What happened that night will haunt the people of this New England state forever as did the Cocoanut Grove fire. It is asahme that history had to repeat itself and more people had to die a horrible death. Where does it end. We need better laws everywhere so people can feel safe when they go out for a night of relaxation. They shouldn't have to worry about how they are going to escape a fire. We have got to start somewhere. Don't let this happen again that someone else has to die because of greed.
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