Winecoff Hotel Fire

Image by/from Eoghanacht

The Winecoff Hotel fire of December 7, 1946, was the deadliest hotel fire in United States history, killing 119 hotel occupants, including the hotel’s owners. Located at 176 Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, United States, the Winecoff Hotel was advertised as “absolutely fireproof”. While the hotel’s steel structure was indeed protected against the effects of fire, the hotel’s interior finishes were combustible, and the building’s exit arrangements consisted of a single stairway serving all fifteen floors. All of the hotel’s occupants above the fire’s origin on the third floor were trapped, and the fire’s survivors either were rescued from upper-story windows or jumped into nets held by firemen. The fire was notable for the number of victims who jumped to their deaths. A photograph of one survivor’s fall won the 1947 Pulitzer Prize for Photography. The fire – which followed the June 5, 1946, La Salle Hotel fire in Chicago (with 61 fatalities), and the June 19, 1946, Canfield Hotel fire in Dubuque, Iowa (with 19 fatalities) – spurred significant changes in North American building codes, most significantly requiring multiple protected means of egress and self-closing fire-resistive doors for guest rooms in hotels.

The fire, coming on the heels of the La Salle Hotel fire, had a major impact on building codes. A national conference on fire prevention was convened in 1947 at the direction of U.S. President Harry S. Truman in response to the La Salle and Winecoff fires. Both fires had highlighted the problems associated with unprotected stair openings, which provided paths for the spread of smoke (in the case of the La Salle Hotel) and fire (at the Winecoff), simultaneously preventing the use of the stairs for escape. The National Fire Protection Association’s Building Exits Code of 1927 had already set forth principles requiring the use of multiple, protected means of egress, and was further revised to allow the code to be incorporated as law. Emphasis in building design and construction was changed from the protection of property — the Winecoff’s “completely fireproof” statement on its stationery was accurate insofar as it was confined to the building’s structure — to place primary emphasis on the protection of life, with property protection subordinated to that goal. Georgia Governor Ellis Arnall reacted to the narrowly defined “fireproof” statement, stating:

The public is being defrauded when a hotel is advertised as “fireproof,” but really isn’t. Responsible agencies should prohibit the use of the word “fireproof” when a hotel is not really fireproof as the Winecoff obviously was not.

Fireproof construction was a term primarily originating with the insurance industry, which was chiefly concerned with property loss claims. A “fireproof building” could withstand a severe fire and be returned to service once its interior finishes were replaced, without total loss due to collapse or damage to adjoining structures. The Building Exits Code was significantly revised in 1948 to address issues of finish combustibility, detection and warning, and provisions related to the number of people in the building.
To highlight its principal emphasis, the Building Exits Code was retitled the Code for Safety to Life from Fire in 1966.

The Winecoff fire led to the incorporation of wartime research into the flammability of building materials into code requirements and design standards, recognizing the existence of flashover as a means of fire propagation. The Winecoff was cited as a notable example in which multiple flashovers served to propagate the fire at each successive level. The La Salle and Winecoff fires, in which combustible finish materials were prominent hazards, spurred the adoption of the Steiner tunnel test which had been used by Underwriters Laboratories to establish the relative fire hazard of materials as the ASTM-E84 and NFPA-255 standards from 1958. The prohibition of operable transoms in guest rooms was a direct result of the Winecoff fire.

The Winecoff fire also stimulated debate concerning the ex post facto enforcement of new fire code requirements in older properties. Until the rash of hotel fires in 1946, such legislation was regarded as an unconstitutional taking of property. Newer legislation enabled the enforcement of standards for existing buildings in addition to new construction.

Family and friends of victims and survivors gathered in Sandy Springs for the 70th anniversary of the fire and remember the victims.

South of the hotel, stands a historical marker that commemorates the victims, survivors and the fire. It reads “dedicated to the victims, the survivors and the firemen who fought the Winecoff fire.”

Curated with thanks from Wikipedia.

Zetex (fabric)

Zetex fabrics were invented by Bal Dixit in 1978. This highly texturized fiberglass fabric exhibits many of the same properties as asbestos, such as resistance to heat, corrosion and rot resistance, outstanding electrical properties, ability to withstand molten metal, and thermal insulation. However, it does not carry the same health risks.

Zetex has been tested against asbestos to prove it is a good replacement. Two Zetex filaments were created, one with a 9 um diameter (G) and a 6 um diameter (DE).

Chrysotile, the most commonly encountered form of asbestos, has a density of 40 oz/yd2, while Zetex G has a density of 35 oz/yd2, and Zetex DE has a density of 32 oz/yd2.

A glove was fabricated from this material to allow for further testing to be done. A thermocouple was used to test the inside temperature of the glove while holding a 600°F(316°C) pipe. A measure was taken to see how long it took the inside to reach 140°F. Both gloves included the same wool liner. Another test was done with a 1200°F(649°C) pipe.

Zetex can be used for a variety of fire protection applications.

Zetex has replaced asbestos as the material for the large fire curtains that lower and close off the stage opening in case of a fire in a proscenium type theatre or auditorium.

During welding, workers can wear Zetex-made fire suits for protection. Also, Zetex material can be used for fabric expansion joints, creating fire barriers in buildings.

Zetex material can encapsulate gas tanks or exhaust pipes, protecting from fire caused by gas leaks.

Zetex suits can be used in welding applications, protecting the worker from sparks and other molten objects. It can also be used to create a fire barrier.

Fire departments can use Zetex made suits to battle fires due to Zetex’s heat resistant properties. Full engulfment capabilities of the suit make for a good emergency combatant.

When boxing a newly finished piece of glass for annealing a Glassblower may utilize Zetex gloves to hold the finished piece in transition from the knock off table to the annealer.


Image by/from Didier Descouens

Tremolite is a member of the amphibole group of silicate minerals with composition: Ca2(Mg5.0-4.5Fe2+0.0-0.5)Si8O22(OH)2. Tremolite forms by metamorphism of sediments rich in dolomite and quartz. Tremolite forms a series with actinolite and ferro-actinolite. Pure magnesium tremolite is creamy white, but the color grades to dark green with increasing iron content. It has a hardness on Mohs scale of 5 to 6. Nephrite, one of the two minerals of the gemstone jade, is a green variety of tremolite.

The fibrous form of tremolite is one of the six recognised types of asbestos. This material is toxic, and inhaling the fibers can lead to asbestosis, lung cancer and both pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma. Fibrous tremolite is sometimes found as a contaminant in vermiculite, chrysotile (itself a type of asbestos) and talc.

Tremolite is an indicator of metamorphic grade since at high temperatures it converts to diopside.

Tremolite occurs as a result of contact metamorphism of calcium and magnesium rich siliceous sedimentary rocks and in greenschist facies metamorphic rocks derived from ultramafic or magnesium carbonate bearing rocks. Associated minerals include calcite, dolomite, grossular, wollastonite, talc, diopside, forsterite, cummingtonite, riebeckite and winchite.

Tremolite was first described in 1789 for an occurrence in Campolungo, Piumogna Valley, Leventina, Ticino (Tessin), Switzerland.

One of the six recognized types of asbestos. Approximately 40,200 tons of tremolite asbestos is mined annually in India. It is otherwise found as a contaminant.

Curated with thanks from Wikipedia

Why the Deadly Asbestos Industry is Still Alive and Well

Deadly Asbestos

This video covers Russia and the USA and shows that the dangers of asbestos are not being taken seriously, or if they are, still very little is being done about them at a top level.

Why might this be? Well, one of the major sayings when it is difficult to find an answer to something happening that seems nonsensical is to “Follow The Money”. That means that you should look at the situation to see whether someone could  be making money from things staying as they are. (It follows on from the French saying, “Cherchez la femme”, which means to look for the woman behind what a man is doing!) You may also know the saying as “Money Talks”, that is, if money is available for doing or not doing something, it is likely that it will or will not be done, no matter how serious or nonsensical the situation.

Where might the money be in relation to asbestos?

  1. There is nothing as good and cheap as asbestos when it comes to fireproofing and insulating. Manufacturers still want to use it. If they cannot use it in developed countries, they will use in less developed countries.
  2. The countries or companies that own the deposits of asbestos want to make money from them.
  3. There are large deposits of asbestos available and the mines that extract it provide jobs and incomes in some remote areas, where no other jobs are available.

The Real Story of Asbestos

How Did We Find Out About Asbestos

How long have we known it’s dangerous to health?

This short video provides the answers.

Why Are Popcorn Ceilings So Terrible

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Popcorn Ceilings May Contain Asbestos

Many older houses have what are known as popcorn ceilings. If you are thinking of buying one of these older houses, then find out about these types of spray on ceiling covers before making an offer, so you know whether you are willing to live with it or able to afford the cost of removing it.

What Is A Popcorn Ceiling

A popcorn ceiling is the name given to ceilings that have been treated with a spray-on textured paint. They are also known as acoustic ceilings, because they have sound-proofing qualities. Many people do not like them, firstly because they are old fashioned and not what they consider to be in tune with modern decor and secondly because they may contain asbestos.

Does It Contain Asbestos?

Volunteers Exposed To Asbestos Dust











This case dates back to the year 2009 in Michigan, USA when a group of volunteers and untrained employees were tasked by Detroit International Bridge Co, with cleaning up an old building at Michigan Central Station. The company was subsequently fined by the OSHA for exposing these people to asbestos dust and other toxic materials.

Damages Award £250,000 for Secondary Exposure To Asbestos

The family of a woman who died of mesothelioma has been awarded over $320,000 compensation against the firm who employed her husband in their boiler making factory.

She was exposed to the dust on her husband’s overalls when she shook them out prior to washing  them every evening. This is termed secondary exposure and this case is the first in Scotland, UK to have been awarded such damages. The firm was called Babcock & Wilcox, now Babcock International. You can read the full story here. There is another article about fines for contravening asbestos regulations here.

So Useful So Dangerous

Asbestos is an extremely useful material, unfortunately, it is also extremely dangerous. As a non flammable insulator, it was used in fire curtains, home insulation, as ironing stands, for automobile brakes, in ceiling decoration, house sidings and so many more places. It was also used in cigarette filters! Both government and private industry promoted the use of asbestos, even though they may already have known at the time that it was dangerous and caused cancer. Below is one of the promotional films made many years ago before the dangers of asbestos were publicly known.

Sources Of Asbestos in Homes

Where To Find Asbestos In The Home

It’s often surprising just where exactly asbestos can be found in older homes and what needs to be done to ensure a safe asbestos clean up. The best route is to bring in the experts. Qualified asbestos removal firms will have trained staff, who will know where exactly to look for possible uses, such as sidings, floor tiles,  asbestos duct or ductwork insulation and boiler areas for instance. They will also be trained to use the correct methods, such as taping off areas with asbestos danger tape, using asbestos cleaning cloths and disposal bags or they may possibly recommend asbestos encapsulation methods for areas where the material does not need removal and is not friable but where work is needed to ensure any asbestos cannot be accidentally released.

The Health and Safety Executive in the UK has produced an image that shows some (not all) of the possible places to find asbestos in the home. The numbering guide can be found on their page. The picture is linked to the page it comes from.








There is an old film available that shows many of the areas where asbestos can be found in an older house. Warning: the video is actually called “how to  safely remove asbestos” but what it really does is show you where asbestos is located. If you are interested in watching to see how many ways asbestos was used in older houses, then check out the asbestos documentary below.


This page contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence