South Florida nightclub inspections questioned after Brazil fire

Officials say 122 venues are inspected annually in Miami Beach

By Jacey Birch - Anchor/Animal Advocate

MIAMI - More than 1,000 people ran for their lives when the Kiss nightclub caught fire Sunday in southern Brazil. According to officials, the fire claimed the lives of more than 231 concert-goers after band members lit flares on stage.

The question some residents have now is if something like this could happen in South Florida.

"We do annual inspections to every nightclub or bar/lounge that we have in the city," said Miami Beach Fire Marshal Sonia Machen.

Officials say 122 venues are inspected annually in Miami Beach. The yearly inspections are planned, but there are also 25 to 30 random inspections that may take place every Friday and Saturday night.

There is also an increase in fire prevention teams during holidays and special events. According to authorities, clubs are checked for overcrowding and to ensure they are code compliant for fire safety. Sprinkler systems, emergency escape routes and exit doors are also mandated by the fire marshal.

Officials say there must be at least two exit doors if there are 50 people inside a club. If there are 500 club-goers, there has to be at least three exits to get out of the club. If there are more than 1,000 people partying inside, there must be at least four exits.

"We do a plan review before we issue the maximum occupant load limit," said Machen.

The Fire Prevention Team said they are responsible for enforcing fire safety guidelines for party promoters. In 2012, a reported sixteen citations were issued in the city for not meeting fire code regulations. The first citation carries a fine of $200; the second citation and any more after that, carry a fine of $500.

Machen said she hopes one rule will keep the scene in Brazil from ever being seen at the local nightclubs.

"Here in the city of Miami Beach, I have a strict policy not allowing pyrotechnic use in any nightclub," said Machen.

Machen says clubs are not even allowed to apply for a special permit to allow pyrotechnics in any club in the city. This may be one reason there have been no fires at any Miami Beach club venues within the past decade.

Authorities say club owners and managers are still responsible for daily and weekly inspections, as well as following all state and city laws.

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