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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Major American Fires: Cocoanut Grove Fire

This is a guide to resources at the Illinois Fire Service Institute Library and online that discuss major American fires.

General Resources

Cocoanut Grove Fire: Introduction

The Cocoanut Grove fire occured on November 28, 1942 in Boston, Massachusetts. 492 people were killed, making it the deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. History. The club was filled beyond capacity that night; though the building's capacity was supposed to be 460 people, it is estimated that over 1000 people were in attendance. The club had a complex layout; it was originally a garage and warehouse but had undergone renovations and expansions over the years. There were paper and cloth decorations on the walls and ceilings, which helped the fire spread quickly. The fire started in a basement lounge and quickly blocked the basement's public exit. The people on the main floor only became aware of the fire when it had reached that floor. People rushed to the main door, which was a revolving door and quickly became jammed. Other doors were locked, while some unlocked doors opened inward and were unusable due to the number of people pushing against them.

Resources at the IFSI Library

These links take you to the IFSI catalog. To request an item, click "Add to Request Bin." This takes you to a page where you can fill out the online request form and submit to the IFSI library. To request items, you must be an Illinois resident with a library card from an Illinois library.

Online Resources


In this video by the NFPA, survivors of the Cocoanut Grove fire describe their experiences.

In this video, Casey Grant, research director of the Fire Protection Research Foundation of the NFPA, gives a presentation on the Cocoanut Grove Fire and the changes in fire regulations, emergency response, and medical treatment that were enacted in response to the fire.

IFSI Library Information

Library Hours:

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Monday - Friday

Special operating hours may be held during events.

IFSI Library Website


IFSI Library Staff:

Lian Ruan, Head Librarian:

Diane Richardson, Reference & User Training Librarian:

David Ehrenhart, Archivist and Metadata Librarian:

Libguide created by Elizabeth York