Deadliest fires and explosions by property class

Property class Event  Date   Number of deaths
Fixed or variable use amusement or recreation place Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus
Hartford, CT
July 6, 1944 168
Eating or drinking place

Cocoanut Grove night club
Boston, MA

November 28, 1942 492

Iroquois Theater
Chicago, IL

December 30, 1903  602 

Consolidated School (explosion) (PDF, 826 KB)
New London, TX

Lakeview Grammar School (fire)
Collingwood, OH

March 18, 1937


March 4, 1908



Facility that cares for the aged Katie Jane Nursing Home
Warrenton, MO
February 17, 1957 72
Facility that cares for the sick Cleveland Clinic (PDF, 360 KB)
Cleveland, OH
May 15, 1929 125
Prison or jail Ohio State Penitentiary
Columbus, OH
April 21, 1930 320
Hotel or motel Winecoff Hotel (PDF, 1.6 MB)
Atlanta, GA
December 7, 1946 119
Office The World Trade Center
New York, NY
September 11, 2001 2,666
Mine Monongha Mine coal mine explosion
Monongha, WV
December 6, 1907 361
Manufacturing plant Aetna Chemical Company (explosion)
Oakdale, PA

Triangle Shirtwaist Company (PDF, 860 KB) (fire only)
New York, NY

May 18, 1918

March 25, 1911


Forest Peshtigo forest fire
Peshtigo, WI, and environs
October 8, 1871 1,152
Ship S.S. Sultana steamship explosion and fire
Mississippi River
April 27, 1865 1,547
Aircraft ValuJet Airlines DC-9 passenger jet
Miami, FL
May 11, 1996 110

Disclaimer: Death tolls are based on information in NFPA’s records. Please contact us at to provide any updated information.    

Source: NFPA archive files, 1984 Fire Alamanac, and The Great International Disaster Book by James Cornell, Pocket Books New York, 1976.

Updated: 12/02

Bottom blue line

Free access     NEC    Sparky the Fire Dog       NFPA Conference & Expo       NFPA Journal       Sprinklers       Wildland fires      Journal Buyer's' Guide   NEC Buyers' Guide