WEST WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) - The first responders were just some of the heroes who emerged on Feb. 20, 2003. Warwick firefighter and former state lawmaker Peter Ginaitt was among them.
"The way the fire accelerated, the speed by which it moved through the station was something I hadn't seen in my 20 years as a firefighter," Ginaitt said.
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In the weeks and months following the 2003 Station nightclub fire, in which 100 people were killed, Rhode Island took a long, hard look at its fire safety laws.
And Ginaitt, after witnessing one of the worst fires in history, was one of the people who led the charge.
"The state has made remarkable improvements from just the laws that were changed in 2004, when the General Assembly upgraded all the state fire codes and the laws by which we operate under. It was a huge change," said Ginaitt.
Some of the stricter fire codes include:
- Rhode Island nightclubs with a capacity of more than 150 people must have sprinkler systems
- Curtains, bar stools, paint, and carpeting have to be fire resistant
- Clubs are subject to more frequent surprise inspections
- Staffers must be trained in crowd management
- Grandfather clause exempting older establishments from the updated code was thrown out
"That was a very difficult decision that was fought by the business industry," Ginaitt said. "A lot of people just thought they had an exemptions. But when we are dealing with human lives, dealing with these venues, there should be no exemption."
Rhode Island's stricter fire laws have gained international attention. China even adopted them for the 2008 Olympic Games.
When asked if Rhode Island could be any safer, Ginaitt answered, "I feel Rhode Island has done everything we possibly can. I feel we are the safest state in the country."
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