Recommended by Bill
Fire In The Grove: The Cocoanut Grove Tragedy and Its Aftermath by John C. Esposito
492 dead. Wrap your mind around that one. No one will ever be able to say, but it's estimated that there were about 1000 guests and employees in the Cocoanut Grove Nightclub at the time of the fire. Half of them died. Add to that, the fact that by all accounts, the fire department had a knockdown of the fire just 30 minutes after it had begun; a testament to the ferocity of the fire as it consumed the available fuel. A fire that moved so fast, some victims were found in their seats holding their drink. Firefighters entering the building described piles of bodies 8 feet high near the exits. This is the fire that made outward swinging entrance doors and collapsable revolving doors the standard.
I'm not going to say this is the best history book I've read on a fire (see To Sleep With Angels above,) but it is a good read about a very bad fire. There are also a couple of surprises in the book; specifically a chapter dedicated to a Cocoanut Grove burn survivor whose treatment was pioneering in burn care. Also, the author ties this fire in with the Station Nightclub fire in the postscript and actually adds a list of things for the public to consider when they enter a structure, regarding available exits, fire protection, etc.
Recommended for all ranks (because as a member of the fire profession, we should have a knowledge of our history.)