Total number of deaths
27 January 2013
Between 2:00 and 2:30 (BRST)
Ignition of acoustic foam by illegal use of pyrotechnics
The Station nightclub fire, República Cromañón nightclub, Joelma fire, Niterói circus fire, Cocoanut Grove
The Kiss nightclub fire started between 2:00 and 2:30 (BRST) on 27 January 2013 in Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, killing 242 people and injuring at least 630 others. It is considered the second most-devastating fire disaster in the history of Brazil—surpassed only by the Great North American Circus fire of December 1961, which killed 503 people in Niterói, and the deadliest nightclub fire since the December 2000 fire that killed 309 people in Luoyang, China. It is also the third-deadliest nightclub fire in history, behind the Luoyang Christmas fire and the Cocoanut Grove fire in 1942.
Because it was a high-casualty fire caused by illegal indoor usage of outdoor pyrotechnics, the disaster bore similarities to the 2003 Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island in the United States; the 2004 República Cromañón nightclub fire in Buenos Aires, Argentina; the 2008 Wuwang Club fire in Shenzen, China; the 2009 Santika Club fire in Watthana, Bangkok, Thailand (cause is disputed); the 2009 Lame Horse fire in Perm, Russia and the 2015 Colectiv nightclub fire in Bucharest, Romania.
The party, called "Aglomerados", organized by students from six universities and technical courses at the Federal University of Santa Maria, began on Saturday, 26 January 2013 at 23:00 UTC. Two bands were scheduled to perform that night ("Pimenta e seus comparsas" and "Gurizada Fandangueira").
In the early morning hours of 27 January 2013, a fire broke out while students from the Federal University of Santa Maria (UFSM) were holding a freshers' ball. A stampede occurred following the fire, and a lack of exit signs and emergency exits allegedly contributed to the deaths. Most of the victims were between 18 and 30 years old.
Witnesses have said either a flare or fireworks lit by band members may have started the fire. Brazilian police stated that the fire began when the band Gurizada Fandangueira ignited a pyrotechnic device (similar to a signaling flare) while performing on stage. The flare then ignited flammable acoustic foam in the ceiling. According to the authorities, other reasons for the high death toll include the lack of emergency exits (the only access in and out of the building was the front door) and the fact that the number of people inside exceeded the maximum capacity by hundreds.
About 90% of the victims succumbed to smoke inhalation. Many people died as they either tried to hide in bathrooms or, in panic mistook them for exits. At least 180 bodies were removed from the bathrooms. More than 150 were injured by the crush at the front door and the rapidly accumulating smoke within the nightclub. Several injuries were also attributed to severe burns caused by flames, with 8 victims succumbing to their injuries in the days and weeks following the incident.
Colonel Guido Pedroso de Melo of the Rio Grande do Sul Fire Department stated that the club's front door was locked. De Melo told CNN: "This overcrowding made it difficult for people to leave, and according to the information we have, the security guards trapped the victims inside."
The fire has the second-highest death toll for an entertainment event in Brazil; it is second only to the 1961 Niterói circus fire, which killed more than 500 people.
The exact cause of the fire was not immediately known but it was later found by the investigation and the accounts of victims that an illegal firework device ignited the acoustic foam on the ceiling.
Two co-owners of the nightclub and two members of the band were arrested and questioned by police. One of the owners of the nightclub tried to commit suicide while still being treated at the hospital; however one of the police officers guarding his room noticed the attempt and intervened.
The state fire department found that the premises did not have enough emergency exits and did not have authorization to use fireworks. The fire department, however, did issue a permit for the club to operate. The permit stated that the club had two emergency exits. The fact that false information was used by the club and approved by the fire department resulted in a state investigation on the authorities responsible for supervising the nightclub, including the city hall and the fire department itself. It has also been reported that the fire extinguishers in the club may have been falsified or were disabled at the time.
On 30 January, the nightclub's owner deflected blame to "the whole country", as well as to architects and inspectors who were commissioned with ensuring the building's safety, according to his lawyer. By that time, the death toll was at least 235. The next day, officials inspected and closed more than 58 nightlife spots around the country as part of a crackdown on unsafe public spaces.
On 2 April, two nightclub owners and two band members were charged with manslaughter.
Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff stated, "I want to tell the Brazilians and the population of Santa Maria that we stand together in this sad moment," before departing early from a summit of the EU and the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean in Santiago, Chile to visit grieving relatives of the victims. Rousseff declared three days of official mourning. Santa Maria's city government established thirty days of official mourning.
The incident resulted in the inspection of safety features of thousands of nightclubs all over the country. In São Paulo alone 60% of the nightclubs inspected were found to be operating against safety regulations.