The 1897 Paris Bazaar Fire – Costly Lessons
The inferno drove everyone to rush for their lives, to the narrow doors. Here was another costly lesson that we learned on the construction of community halls and buildings. As the doors were constructed only to open inward, after most of the panicking crowd rushed towards the doors trusting all the pressure upon the doors, for it was impossible to open the doors inward.
The side view of the theatre hall shows us clearly the use of draped canvas, as a suspended ceiling. It is obviously highly inflammable. Also the design of the hall completely obscures the rear side of the audience’s view. (Of course now too the same design prevails, but assisted with essential safety measures.) This hindered the audience from having an early alert, in case there was a fire behind the screen.
The lack of knowledge of the emergency exits among the audience rather than lack of it could be pointed as one of the main reason for the accumulation of many at few doors. Though there some more exits, they were of no use as they were known only to the organizers and their staff. Besides fire safety measurements had not been taken care at all, during the construction. This crippled the usage of water to use from inside the building, to put off the fire or subdue its vigor, at least.
Though the River Seine on whose banks the bazaar was set up, provided ample source of water, the fire personnel had difficulties entering into the construction ferociously eaten by the tongues of fire. So they were only able to enter the bazaar from its rear where houses were situated. Yet, the entire painful rescue mission couldn’t save lives as the devastation was total, way past rescue. About 124 people, all elites, were killed in the tragedy. As they all belonged to creamy layer of the society, the news made headlines in the newspapers across the world. Though as usual everything was forgotten by the public, returning to their routines, this incident paved way for the formulation of the first French fire safety standards.
Though the Paris Bazaar fire is a worse tragedy, it is not the worst in the pages of history. The great fire in the Ring theatre in Vienna, Austria, is the worst ever theatre fire in history. On December 8, 1881, during an opera show, the fire that broke out ate 620 people alive and injuring scores more. These tragedies are strong reminders for ever insisting on the necessity of the safety measures that are to be thought of during the planing phase of architectural designs for public buildings such as exhibitions and cinema halls.