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40 years ago: The day the American fire service changed


A fire that swept through the Beverly Hills Supper Club in Southgate, Kentucky, on May 28, 1977, killed 162 people and injured more than 100. As a result of this tragedy, national fire codes for public assembly occupancies were changed to require — for the first time — fire alarm and fire sprinkler systems to help prevent such an event from happening again.

About the Beverly Hills Supper Club

The building was rebuilt following a fire that destroyed it in 1970. State codes at that time didn't require sprinklers or fire alarm systems, so neither was installed. The split-level building was divided into a number of large and small dining rooms, with a maze of narrow corridors interconnecting the rooms that made exits difficult to locate.

Factors that contributed to the loss of life
  • Deficient aluminum wiring.
  • Insufficient fire exits.
  • Poorly marked exits.
  • Lack of fire walls.
  • Combustible furnishings.
  • No fire alarm or fire sprinkler systems.

Changes that resulted from this tragedy
  • Sprinklers are now required in nightclubs and public assembly areas with a capacity of over 300 people.
  • Aluminum electrical wiring was banned.
  • This was the first fire where the scene was preserved for investigation.

Many of the fire and building codes adopted by our communities today are in place largely as a result of the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire. As seen by nightclub fires that followed this event, the fire service must continue to make strides to help prevent these types of fires and keep people safe in places of public assembly. 

Conducting oral history interviews
Sprinkler System Dedication

Collection of Ideas and Inspirations

Benjamin Franklin Fire Writer’s Award
Benjamin Franklin Fire Writer’s Award
Building fund
Building fund
Sprinkler system
Sprinkler system
The Hall of Legends, Legacies and Leaders
The Hall of Legends, Legacies and Leaders

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Contact Info

  • The National Fire Heritage Center
  • Address: 17701 Creamery Road  Emmitsburg, Maryland 21727
  • Phone: (210) 380-8364
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.