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On 19 April, 1993, fire broke out and spread rapidly through the Mt. Carmel Center of the “Branch Davidians”, located near Waco, Texas. Seventy-six occupants of the structure perished in the resulting inferno. In sharp contrast to most large fires, a substantial amount of information is available regarding the origin and spread of this fire. This information clearly establishes multiple origins and documents rapid fire spread through the structure. Analysis of fatality records shows that fire related factors accounted for 80% of reported causes of death. Factors identified as contributing to the high casualty rate include multiple fire origins, rapidly spreading fires, structural collapse of critical egress points, the clustering of women and children in a perceived area of refuge (a fortified “bunker”), and the use of chemical agents in this area.
Large scale fires, fire cause and origin, fire egress, Waco
Senior Managing Engineer, Failure Analysis Associates, Inc., Menlo Park, CA