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Local codes limit use of pyrotechnics in nightclubs

Jan. 29, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Pyrotechnics blamed for igniting a fire that killed hundreds at a Brazilian nightclub are not heavily used in Huntington, according to state and local officials.

Huntington Fire Marshal Steve Ellis said the use of such effects are reserved for the Big Sandy Superstore Arena. Nightclubs and other venues in the city are typically too small to win approval from city and state inspectors.

"A lot of places can't meet the code requirements," he said. "Not every bar has a 25-foot ceiling, so you really don't have a place to do those types of events."

More than 230 people died early Sunday during the fire at a university party in southern Brazil. Police have said they think a band's pyrotechnics show ignited sound insulation on the ceiling, causing the blaze.

Sprinklers, fire escapes and a fire alarm were among items missing from the Brazilian nightclub. All of those are requirements locally for any such pyrotechnic display.

West Virginia's application process requires approval from local and state officials, an inspection on the day of the event, the presence of authorities at ignition and a site plan. That plan must include a drawing documenting from where the pyrotechnics will be shot, the effect's maximum distance and amount of buffer room between it and the crowd.

Anthony Carrico, deputy chief for the state Fire Marshal's Office, said the Brazilian fire should serve as a reminder as to why authorities put forth regulations such as capacity limits, which set a facility's maximum capacity based upon its floor space and available exits.

"When you exceed the capacity, you exceed the exiting capacity of the establishment or the building," he said. "That's why you have sprinkler systems required, fire alarm notification systems, exiting ... Those are all part of the fire code. They all work together.

"You take one element or one component away, unfortunately tragedies like this could happen," Carrico said.

Follow Curtis Johnson via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD and http://facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD.

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