- On November 28, 1942, a quick and deadly fire ripped through the Cocoanut Grove nightclub, killing 492 people, and becoming, in minutes, the worst nightclub fire in American history.
- The club was a fire trap. Doors were locked, the club was at twice its legal capacity, and it was filled with flammable objects, like plastic palm trees and satin-lined ceilings.
- But the fire was also a learning opportunity — leading to fire code changes, rules around revolving doors, what constitutes a public space, developments in treating burn patients, and understanding grief and post-traumatic stress disorder.
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It only took 15 minutes for the Boston nightclub to become a deadly inferno.
On November 28, 1942, a quick and deadly fire spread through Cocoanut Groves night club. It was the worst nightclub fire in American history.
The club was a fire trap. It was filled to over twice its capacity. Doors were locked to stop patrons sneaking off without paying their bills. Inside, the walls and decor were filled highly flammable materials.
The fire killed 492 people, from burns or smoke inhalation. Another 166 people had burn and smoke injuries.
Cocoanut Grove’s fire led to changes in fire regulations, rules around revolving doors, what constitutes a public space, medicinal developments in treating burn patients, and an advance in understanding grief and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Here’s how it happened, and what came after the Cocoanut Grove fire.