The Columbus Dispatch : 1977 supper-club fire still haunts rescuers
Today is the 30th anniversary of the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire (which occured in Kentucky).
On May 28, 1977, as many as 2,800 guests and employees were in the club on a hilltop across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. An estimated 1,300 of those people sat at tiny tables jammed into the Cabaret Room, nearly triple the number of occupants the room could safely accommodate.
The building did not have an automatic sprinkler system, now regarded as a common fail-safe in public buildings and required in many areas.
Investigators later blamed the fire on problems with the aluminum wiring.
John Beatsch, now chief of Southgate Fire Department, was 21 and on the first firetruck to respond.
After arriving, he ran to the back, where firefighters were pulling people from the Cabaret Room. The overflow crowd had been wedged in. Tables and chairs had been set up in the aisles and along ramps to the stage.
"We could hear people calling for help. Firefighters were yelling, 'Move your arms.' They were piled up. It seemed the people on the bottom were alive. The people on top were overcome."
Firefighters also were frantically searching inside the building; they worked until nearly dawn pulling bodies out.
"There were plenty of signs that said exit, but they didn't lead directly to exits," said Greg Hirsch, a Southgate firefighter. "There was a long hallway and if you went all the way down, there was an exit. But there were dressing rooms and closets along the hallway. We found people inside those rooms. They got confused, couldn't see. They thought they found a door."
Gerald Sanford, now chief of Central Campbell County Fire District, had traded shifts with another firefighter and was working that night.
"Being in Vietnam, I thought that was the worst you could see," he said. "But even having that training, I wasn't prepared for 165 people dying."
Here are links to more information about this fire:
The Cincinnati Post- In depth report of all aspects of the fire. Floorplan of layout.
A 20 year Retrospective...also from The Post.
From the Laconia Fire Department you will find some of the facts of this fire as well as links for other fires of significance in the US.