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Investigation report on the Westcase Hilton Hotel
The fire at the Westcase Hilton, like other recent severe hotel fires, was a modern, recently completed (or expanded) fire-resistive structure with a number of built-in fire protection features. Yet 12 out of 30 occupants (40 percent) on the fire floor were fatalities.

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In 1980, new city ordinances required hotels to have smoke detectors on every floor. A year later, all new high-rise buildings were required to install automatic spinkler systems and other early fire warning devices. The Westchase Hilton Hotel, unfortunately, was built before those requirements. Located at 9999 Westheimer, the 13-story hotel did have a fire detection system that alerted the front desk.

Just after 2 a.m. on March 6, 1982, the buzzer went off. Thinking the alarm was malfunctioning, the desk clerk shut it off manually. When the alarm sounded again minutes later, the clerk again shut it off. One of the hotel's 200 guests soon reported smoke to the clerk, but the Fire Department wasn't notified until 2:30 a.m. The fire destroyed a fourth-floor room, filling other rooms on the floor with smoke and claiming 10 lives immediately. Five other people were seriously hurt, and two later died. It was Houston's most deadly hotel blaze since the Gulf Hotel Fire in 1943.


Investigators from the Houston Arson Bureau have determined that a fallen cigarette caused ignition of one of the two upholstered chairs in room 404. The investigators believe that a lighted cigarette apparently fell onto or into the crevices of the upholstered chair some time during the evening and initiated a smouldering fire in the chair. The fire, which was reported to the Houston Fire Department at 2:25 am, occurred in a guest room located on the fourth floor of the hotel's 13 story, high-rise tower. The fire mainly involved the contents of one guest room, and exposed the fourth floor corridor to severe heat and smoke conditions. Due to the building configuration, the fire was also able to extend horizontally to two adjoining rooms on the fourth floor. In addition there was a minor vertical exterior fire extension to three guest rooms on the fifth floor. Smoke spread throughout the fire floor and, in varying degrees, to all levels of the building.

All of the fatalities were occupants of the fire floor. A family of four and a family of five were found in rooms 407 and 411. One victim was found in the corridor outside room 413. In addition, five occupants on the fire floor were hospitalized, four in critical condition, and one in serious condition. Two of the injured died soon after the fire.

Fire fighters found the injured behind closed doors in guest rooms and in the fourth floor exit-access corridor. The victims ranged in age from 2 years old to 67 years old, seven females and five males were among the victims.

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