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DANBURY, CONNECTICUT - FIVE DIE IN FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION FIRE (FROM ANALYSES OF THREE MULTIPLE FATALITY PENAL INSTITUTION FIRES, 1978)

NCJ Number
63943
Author(s)
ANON
Date Published
1978
Length
4 pages
Annotation
CIRCUMSTANCES OF A FIRE THAT KILLED FIVE INMATES IN THE MEDIUM-SECURITY DANBURY, CONNECTICUT, FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION ARE DESCRIBED, AND FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO THE LOSS OF LIFE ARE IDENTIFIED.
Abstract
AT ABOUT 1:15 AM ON JULY 7, 1977, A FIRE BEGAN IN AN INMATE'S CLOTHES HANGING ON WOODEN PEGS IN THE WASHROOM OF G UNIT, AND BEFORE IT WAS EXTINGUISHED ABOUT 45 MINUTES LATER, FIVE INMATES HAD DIED OF SMOKE ASPHYXIATION. THE MOST SIGNIFICANT FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO THIS LOSS OF LIFE WERE THE PRESENCE OF FUELS THAT PROMOTED RAPID FLAME AND SMOKE DEVELOPMENT, THE FAILURE TO EVACUATE OCCUPANTS QUICKLY AND RELIABLY (THE TWO PRIMARY EXITS WERE BLOCKED BY THE FIRE AND A BROKEN KEY IN A LOCK, LEAVING A NARROW CATWALK AS THE ONLY EXIT), AND THE FIRE NOT BEING EXTINGUISHED IN AN INCIPIENT STAGE. AN AUTOMATIC SPRINKLER SYSTEM WOULD HAVE BEEN THE MOST RELIABLE FIRE DEFENSE FOR G UNIT; HOWEVER, EVEN WITHOUT AUTOMATIC DETECTION AND SUPPRESSION EQUIPMENT, THE FIRESAFETY SYSTEM, WITH LITTLE EXPENDITURE OF MONEY, COULD HAVE BEEN MORE EFFECTIVE BY REVISIONS TO EMERGENCY PROCEDURES IN THE FIRE PLAN. THE DANBURY FIRE DEPARTMENT BECAME THE PRIMARY MANUAL FIRE SUPPRESSION FORCE, SINCE THE INMATE FIRE BRIGADE WAS NEVER RELEASED FROM HOUSING UNITS AND THE INSTITUTION'S FIRE APPARATUS WAS NEVER USED. THE DANBURY FIRE DEPARTMENT WAS NOT CALLED UNTIL ABOUT 15 MINUTES AFTER THE FIRE'S DISCOVERY BECAUSE OF A FIRE PLAN THAT CALLED FOR INITIAL USE OF THE INSTITUTION'S FIREFIGHTING RESOURCES. SINCE THE FIRE, THE INSTITUTION STAFF AND THE FIRE DEPARTMENT HAVE REVIEWED AND UPDATED THE INSTITUTION'S FIRE EMERGENCY PLAN. A COMPREHENSIVE PROGRAM OF FUEL CONTROL, ADDITIONAL FIRE DETECTION AND SUPPRESSION EQUIPMENT, AND TRAINING AND PLANNING SESSIONS HAVE ALSO BEEN ESTABLISHED, NOT ONLY AT DANBURY BUT THROUGHOUT THE REST OF THE FEDERAL PRISON SYSTEM. FOOTNOTES ARE PROVIDED. THIS DOCUMENT, ALONG WITH NCJ 63941-42, ACCOMPANY THE AUDIOVISUAL NCJ 63944. (RCB)