Collinwood School fire

04/03/1908 Ohio, USA

Collinwood School fire

Type of Fire

Hydrocarbon

Ignition Source

Unconfirmed, possibly basement coal-fuelled boilers

Duration

Several hours

Casualties

174 fatalities

Cost

Cost of life, use of the fire services

What happened at Lake View School in Collinwood, Ohio?

On 4 March 1908, a fire quickly spread throughout the building. It would tragically claim the lives of 172 children, two teachers and a rescuer.

 

How did the Collinwood/Lake View School fire start?

The exact cause of the fire is unconfirmed, however the construction of the building/its materials allowed the fire to take hold. The interior consisted of combustible timbers, wooden floor joists and wooden staircases extending to the third floor with no fire separation, fire doors or firewall construction.

The corridors extending to the main entrance had been modified over time to occupy a clock room - this made the escape route narrower and filled with more combustible products.

Once the basement boiler room fire grew to consume the wooden construction, the escape route and stairwell acted as a chimney, drawing the fire through the construction aided by oiled wooden floors and furniture.

The flames blocked the narrow and long travel path escape routes - toxic fumes and heat overwhelmed the occupants and within five minutes the fire had consumed the entire building.

 

What can the industry learn from the Collinwood School fire?

The fire changed the US building code - in particular when a new school was built in 1910 it incorporated fire-safe stairwells, a central alarm system using steel framing and other fire-safe materials.

The escape routes were designed with a standard width and travel distance to a safe place of exit.

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