By Errol Castens/Daily Journal Oxford Bureau
OXFORD – Aldermen last week made the unusual move of voting an ordinance into immediate effect for purposes of public safety.
The ordinance bans indoor pyrotechnics and sprang from concerns that some Oxford venue might replicate the tragedy of two infamous nightclub fires whose victims numbered in triple digits. In both cases, the crowds were young adults, like most of the crowds that pack Oxford bars and other concert venues regularly on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
“This happened in Warwick, R.I., and there’s sickening video about it. It’s a college town,” said Mayor George “Pat” Patterson. “(Recently) it happened again in a college town in Brazil.”
Fire Chief Cary Sallis described the 2003 fire in Rhode Island that killed 100 at a club called The Station.
“They had a band playing with indoor pyrotechnics, like flaming sparklers, and they set the ceiling tiles on fire,” he said. “With their lack of alarm and smoke detectors and the way it burned, it created a great deal of smoke and fire.”
Sallis noted also the Jan. 27, 2013, nightclub fire in Santa Maria, Brazil, where more than 230 people many of them college students – died.
In both instances, pyrotechnics were the trigger for fire, but insufficient exits and bad crowd-control measures mushroomed the problems.
Sallis said the ban was purely a preventive measure to keep pyrotechnics from becoming an issue.
“We just want to get ahead of this and get something in place where we already have it in the books that it is banned in the city,” Sallis said.
Patterson noted the coincidental delivery of the city’s newest fire engine, a $500,000 investment in public safety.
“We’re glad to be able to offer that kind of protection with a Class 4 fire department,” he said.