Brazil tragedy prompts questions about local nightclubs

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Fire Officials: Brazilian Nightclub at Double Maximum CapacitySAN DIEGO — City fire officials say a disaster like the one that killed more than 230 people in a Brazilian nightclub has never happened in San Diego, and they are working hard to make sure it never does.

A band’s pyrotechnics sparked the fast-moving fire that trapped victims in the over-crowded club in southern Brazil.  Most of the deaths were caused by smoke inhalation.

San Diego Deputy Chief Fire Marshal Doug Perry said engine companies do annual checks to see if local clubs are up to code.

“They’re in there checking to make sure doors are operational, that the alarm has been serviced, that the exit signs are functioning at night and the battery backup is working,” said Perry.

Perry said safety violations are not often found at local clubs and seldom are they major violations.  But one big concern is overcrowding – it may have been a factor in the Brazil disaster.  Also, many victims were trampled to death because they only knew of one exit and another was locked.  Perry says people packed in a club should always know where the exits are.

“What happens many times is people try to get out the way they came in.  So if everyone is coming in the same exit – if you have a problem – that whole group is going to try to come out that main exit,” Perry said.

Jimmy Parker with the Gaslamp Quarter Association says club owners and managers are routinely in contact with safety agencies.

“Those lines of communication are wide open.  It’s not about cracking down.  It’s about making sure it’s the best possible.  So when those questions come, they’re freely asked versus ‘I’m afraid of getting in trouble’,” said Parker.