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La Posada Hotel Fire Texas,Technical Report

ANALYSIS OF SIGNIFICANT FACTORS

Building Construction and Contents

The combination of a light fire loading and non-combustible, fire resistive building construction helped limit the fire damage to the room of origin and the corridor in the immediate vicinity. Combustible contents in the room of origin were limited to a wood desk, two wood chairs with small seat and/or back pads, a wood dresser, a television with stand, drapes, and a bed. (See Figure 3.) The mattress consisted of 30% urethane foam, 40% blended cotton felt, and 30% sisal. (See Figure 11.) It was apparently 1 purchased only three years ago which would indicate compliance with federal smolder resistance standards. However, the testing for compliance with federal standards doesn't contemplate a vertical mattress placed against combustible curtains next to an open window. The bedding, furniture upholstery, and window curtains were unlabeled and probably ignited easily. The only combustible materials in the corridor were the carpeting and decorative wood beams on the non-combustible ceiling. The lack of rated self-closing doors to guest rooms allowed smoke and fire to escape into the corridor from the room of origin, and the lack of stairway enclosures allowed smoke to spread to the upper floors.

Fire Protection Equipment

A key factor in the successful evacuation of occupants was the early warning provided by the smoke detector in the room of origin. Had the fire been fully extinguished when first detected, a major fire incident would not have occurred; however, the early detection of the rekindle was ultimately responsible for the escape of the room occupant, the earlynotification of the fire department, and the evacuation of guests. Texaspassed a law in 1983 which required all hotels, motels, and apartments toprovide smoke detectors to protect sleeping areas.

The fire department did experience some trouble evacuating thebuilding due to the lack of a fire alarm system. Many guests were unaware that there was a fire until fire department personnel knocked on the door to evacuate them. Some actually refused to leave until ordered to do so by police.

The lack of sprinklers and fire alarm systems placed additional demands on the fire department to rescue occupants. The fire department was able to gain control of the situation due to prompt notification and fast response times. Had sprinklers been present in the hotel's guest rooms, it appears that the fire might well have been controlled by one sprinkler head.

Human Behavior

Unlike the transient nature of occupants in a typical hotel, the La Posada was occupied almost entirely by guests who were somewhat familiar with the hotel. Eighty-five percent of the guests were with the Federal

Deposit Insurance Corporation, and had been in the hotel for one and a half weeks at the time of the fire. Of the other 15 percent, many were seasonal guests who had been residing in the hotel for an extended period. Occupant familiarity is thought to have contributed to the large number of guests who were able to evacuate on their own, and probably eased the anxiety of those evacuated by the fire department in smoky conditions.

 
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