Tag Archives: Triangle Shirtwaist Fire


25 Oct

I have just finished reading a book by Bryant Simon, The Hamlet Fire.

The Triangle Shirtwaist fire took place in 1911, but it seems we have not learned much in the ensuing 80 years.  A fire broke out in a chicken processing plant in the little town of Hamlet, NC, on September 3, 1991. The fire itself was caused by the owners’ deliberate disregard for common safety procedures, insisting on repeated makeshift repairs to a cooking vat rather than spending the money to repair the thing properly.  Add to this, the doors were all locked, and the windows boarded up – to prevent theft, according to the owners. Twenty-five people were killed, and an additional fifty-five were injured, some very seriously.

Although North Carolina had passed legislation to provide for safely inspectors, they had not funded the project. There were so few inspectors in the state that, had each one visited four factories a day, each plant would have been inspected once every seventy-five years.  The health inspector did inspect the place more often, and was aware that doors were locked from the outside, there were no marked fire exits, and the place was a dimly lit rabbit warren, but since these things did not affect the food being prepared he didn’t bother to report the conditions.  A really classic case of “it’s not my job.”

The most profoundly damning part of the book, in my opinion, was comes in the epilogue, when Mr. Simon discusses what happens to your chicken between the egg and your dining room table. It’ll ruin your appetite, for sure!