460 Preventing Mass Casualty Fires Caused by Pyrotechnics Academic Article uri icon


  • Introduction Since the beginning of this millennium over 900 people have lost their lives and almost 3000 have been injured in at least 10 burn mass casualty incidents that occurred as a result of the use of pyrotechnics in crowded nightclubs. The latest of these events was the Bucharest “Colectiv” nightclub fire in October 2015.. The series of events that lead to this disaster are strikingly similar to many former events. As is commonly known, prevention is much more effective than any treatment. This fact is especially true in the case of burn mass casualty events with a common preventable cause. Methods On the night of October 30th, 2015, pyrotechnics were activated during a music concert in the “Colectiv” nightclub in Bucharest, Romania. The sparks reached the acoustic foam on one of the building’s columns which caused it to ignite and quickly burn upwards where it continued to burn the wooden ceiling and the entire nightclub. The 300–400 people estimated to be in the nightclub tried to escape through the only exit that was open, stampeding on the way. Results The immediate result of this fire was 26 fatalities and 184 injured victims, of which an additional 38 died within the following weeks. The same mechanism of fire, pyrotechnics being activated in nightclubs, has lead to burn mass casualty incidents in the Netherlands and Brazil in 2001, in the US in 2003 (The Station nightclub fire), in Argentina in 2004, in Ecuador and China in 2008, in Thailand and Russia in 2009, and in Taiwan in 2011. Some of these incidents were also worsened by the tendency of nightclubs to lock emergency exits, thus leaving the huge crowds with only one exit, inevitably causing a stampede. The average victim counts of these “copycat killers” are ~90 fatalities and ~300 injured per incident. Conclusions It is our duty as burn care providers to act in order to prevent such incidents from happening again. Burn care providers worldwide, fire departments and local and national authorities should be made aware of this danger, and legislation should ban the use of pyrotechnics in nightclubs, and enforce safety codes including existence of open emergency exits. The power of social media can also be harnessed for educating the public as to the dangers of the use of pyrotechnics indoors. Applicability of Research to Practice We should strive to prevent further use of pyrotechnics in nightclubs and other indoor venues by communicating this to the community and authorities in every method we can.

publication date

  • April 9, 2018