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The Ten Worst Fires in US History

You read about fires in the news every day - businesses with malfunctioning equipment, the home down the street, a tragedy that led to a fire.

In fact, so much so that you probably skim over them without thinking now. But fires shouldn't be ignored.

Today we're counting down the ten of the worst fires in US history, blazes so large and deadly they changed laws and practices across the nation regarding fire safety.

1. The World Trade Center, New York, Sept. 11, 2001

If you are old enough to remember the day, you know exactly where you were when two jets crashed into the World Trade Center. 9/11 marked the worst terrorist attack in US history.

While the initial impact of the planes and resulting collapse of several structures killed many, the fires that came after and continued for almost 100 days were incredibly deadly. A total of 2,753 people lost their lives.

2. Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, Oklahoma, April 19, 1995

Widely known as the Oklahoma City Bombing, it was the deadliest terror attack for many years until 9/11. Many of the 168 people killed when a truck bomb detonated outside the building died from smoke inhalation and the ensuing fire.

3. Beverly Hills Supper Club, Kentucky, May 28, 1977

A gamechanger to the fire regulations and codes of the time, the fire in this Kentucky supper club killed 165 people.

More than 3,000 people were packed into the club that night, far above their capacity. A series of additions to the club left a sprawling maze of a complex. When a fire started in the Zebra Room, people became confused trying to get out due to unmarked exits.

The lights went dead a few minutes after the fire started and created pandemonium trying to find exits in the dark. It triggered sweeping reforms in exit codes.

4. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, New York, March 25, 1911

Entirely preventable, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire goes down as one due to extreme negligence. The factory was a sweatshop with mostly female teenage employees that didn't speak English.

Multiple exits were blocked or locked to prevent theft, leaving a single exit to the ground floor open. Breaks weren't permitted, so cigarette butts were thrown into rag scrap bins. Several fires had already erupted before this one.

On this day, a fire started in a rag bin. Attempts to extinguish the flames with a hose failed when the hose, rusted through, broke. Hundreds of workers tried to escape through one narrow exit, but the fire quickly overtook them. 146 people died in the blaze.

5. The Station Nightclub, Rhode Island, Feb. 20, 2003

The Station fire killed 100 people that were there to see the band Great White. Hundreds had packed the little club when the band's pyrotechnic display started on fire.

Within minutes, the club was engulfed in flames. The deadly fire caused additional code provisions to be created regarding sprinklers and crowd management. The owner of the club and the band's manager were sentenced to 15 years each in prison.

6. Happy Land Social Club, New York, March 25, 1990

A lover's quarrel was responsible for this fire that killed 87 people. An employee got into an argument with her boyfriend, and he was kicked out of the club. He returned with matches and gasoline and lit the guest exit on fire. He then pulled the metal gate on the front closed.

The club had been ordered closed due to lack of sprinklers and exits but continued to operate illegally. Julio Gonzalez, who set the fire, is serving a life sentence. 

7. MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, Nevada, Nov. 21, 1990

This famous fire started as an electrical fire in the Deli restaurant. It spread more quickly than normal thanks to flashover, consuming plastic fixtures, furniture, wall coverings, and combustibles.

It killed 84 people and injured over 700 others.

8. The Ghost Ship, California, Dec. 3, 2016

The warehouse that acted as a performance and art collective caught fire during a concert that around 100 people attended. It lacked a sprinkler system and was filled with wooden objects that quickly went up in flames.

The stairway to the second floor was constructed of pallets and led to people trapped on the second floor where they'd been dancing. The fire killed 36 people.

9. Upstairs Lounge, Louisianna, June 24, 1973

An anti-LGBT arsonist set fire to this gay bar by dousing the stairwell in lighter fluid and throwing a lit torch at it. The bar didn't follow proper safety measures, and the one emergency exit wasn't marked. Within minutes, the entire car went up in flames, killing 32 people.

10. Imperial Foods Chicken Processing Plant, North Carolina, Sept. 3, 1991

A part on a hydraulic line burst, spewing hydraulic fluid into heating gas from a nearby cooking vat. The resulting fireball spread smoke rapidly through the facility, confusing the workers inside.

Many of the exits were locked, and people tried hiding in coolers or running off to try to find another escape. 25 people were killed, most of them from the toxic gases created.

The Worst Fires in US History

Let's all take a warning from the worst fires in US history - fires are unpredictable, unforgiving, and deadly.

Thankfully, there's now a product that can help extinguish a fire before it gets out of control - the AFG Fireball.

Check out the differences between the AFG and traditional systems, and learn how it can help you protect your home and loved ones!