Nightclub fire should inspire tougher codes

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 22, 2003

Staff reports The Natchez Democrat

The horror that unfolded in just minutes late Thursday night at a Rhode Island concert was all too familiar for those who know the history of Natchez’s Rhythm Nightclub.

Just as nearly 100 people perished when a pyrotechnic display set the Rhode Island club ablaze, more than 200 patrons at the Rhythm Nightclub died in a fire fed by a simpler source &045; the Spanish moss hanging to decorate the club for a 1940 event.

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Natchez lived with the horror of that day for many years to come, as so many families lost loved ones. The community of West Warwick, also small and close-knit, will live through the same sadness.

The cause of the Rhythm Club fire was never determined, but investigators know just what happened at Weset Warwick’s Station club &045; they just don’t know where to lay the blame. Club owners and band management are pointing fingers at each other.

As law enforcement and lawyers sort out the details and families mourn the dead, we can only hope this tragedy brings about changes in the way building and fire codes are written and enforced.

Here in Natchez, Fire Chief Paul Johnson said he and Police Chief Mike Mullins have already discussed more thorough inspections of nightclubs to make sure they are up to code.

Officials around the nation are making the same decisions, and we hope they follow through. More than 60 years elapsed between the Rhythm Club fire &045; the second worst nightclub fire in U.S. history &045; and the fire at The Station.

And we still have lessons to learn.