As a fire safety engineer that has been practicing for over 30 years, I think the devastating fire at Triangle Waist Co was one of the most tragic to occur in the history of our country. On March 25, 1911, a fire in this shirt factory in New York City killed 146 persons, mostly very young women in their teens and twenties.  So many perished because the fire developed rapidly and the exit arrangement did not allow for equally rapid occupant egress.

This devastating event resulted in the need for workplace life safety reform.  In the March/April cover story of the NFPA Journal, “After Triangle.  What’s changed – and what hasn’t – in the 100 years since the Triangle Waist Co. fire”, Scott Sutherland commented:

Triangle remains the deadliest accidental industrial building fire in the nation’s history. It also helped spark profound change in American society, including sweeping reforms that included the adoption and enforcement of a host of workplace safety measures. The development and creation of NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, can be traced directly to the Triangle fire.

As one of the most tragic fires in recorded history, it teaches the most basic of fire safety lessons:  fast fires kill; delayed egress kills; both at the same time kill many. Unfortunately, this lesson has been taught many times, both before and since, with fires including the following:

By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.