At approximately 1:00 a.m. on September 8, 1990, a fire occurred at a fraternity house in Berkeley, California. The fire killed three students and injured two others. Local fire investigators determined that the fire started when a couch in the assembly room was ignited with a butane lighter. The couch then ignited other combustibles in the room and the fire quickly spread through the building. Fire protection equipment included fire extinguishers, fire hose cabinets, local fire alarm system with bells and manual pull stations, and single station, battery-operated smoke detectors in a few sleeping rooms.
The following factors significantly contributed to the loss of life and property in this fire:
- Open stairways
- Combustible interior finished throughout the building
- Lack of compartmentation and occupancy separation with fire-rated construction
- Lack of fire safety training and drills