What firefighters found when they stepped inside was scarring. There were approximately 200 bodies piled several feet in the air by the main entrance, and another hundred or so piled by the Broadway Lounge exit. The other casualties were found scattered throughout the club, some of them still at their tables. They were killed so quickly that they didn’t even have a chance to get up. (Duval) When the smoke had cleared and the dust had settled, the final death toll was at 492, making the Cocoanut Grove fire one of the deadliest fires in U.S. history. The death toll for the fire could have been far lower as there were three additional exits to the building. Unfortunately, at the time of the fire two of them were locked. The third, an emergency exit, had been bricked up to prevent guests from leaving without paying. The public went into an uproar when they found out that club owner Barney Welansky used his mob connections to run his club without any consideration for Boston’s fire code. It has also been reported that only eight days prior, the building had undergone a fire inspection and the fire department inspectors had found “no flammable decorations” and determined that there was enough exits.
As stated above, the only way to advance the field of fire safety is through tragedy, and that is exactly what happened in the days following the fire. The fire commissioner’s 1943 report on the fire made several recommendations. These included