BMC Remembers the 70th anniversary of the worst fire in Boston history


When flames broke out in a lounge just after 10 p.m. on Nov. 28, 1942, the Cocoanut Grove had all the ingredients of a catastrophe. The club was overcrowded; there were too few exits, most of which were obstructed or locked; decorations were made of materials that quickly ignited as the blaze spread around the club. The tragedy offered a window not just into the inadequate fire regulations of the day but also into the politics; word had it that the club’s well-connected owner had just been allowed to open a new section of the Cocoanut Grove without the proper inspections. Over time, the fire had far-reaching effects beyond tougher codes; by many accounts, medical knowledge advanced, as doctors recognized that the toxic gases associated with structure fires could be at least as deadly as flames.

Many victims of the tragic fire came to what is now Boston Medical Center for treatment.  Wedesnday, Joe Blansfield, NP and Trauma Program Manager presented on the topic sharing his wealth of knowledge at Nursing Grand Rounds.


The Cocoanut Grove Coalition just launched a website this week to bring together original and secondary sources from the collections of local Boston institutions and people interested in preserving the history of the fire.  This initiative is a work in progress and subject to continual updates. To learn more, please visit the new website.

To view more photo galleries, visit


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