KNOXVILLE (WATE) – In the wake of a massive nightclub fire in Brazil that took more than 200 lives, fire officials and club owners are taking a closer look at their fire code protocol.
Flames broke out Saturday night at a club called "Kiss" in Santa Maria, Brazil. The club was packed with college-age students when members of the band reportedly lit flares, which set the ceiling on fire. People rushed for the only exit, but many were trapped in the rush.
In Knoxville, even on a quiet Monday night, the manager of Sidesplitters Comedy Club ensures the access to the exits is wide open.
"This is one of the walkways that we need to keep clear and unobstructed," said Bridgette Martin, manager of the comedy club, as she pointed out various exit points.
When a comedian gets up on stage, guests often don't think twice of scooting their chairs close to friends, but that's a big no-no when it comes to fire codes.
"We had to have our floor approved by the fire department to make sure it met code, as far as making sure there were walkways where there needed to be, that tables were a certain amount of feet from each exit, so it was really a big deal. So when people are moving chairs it's like, no that's not approved," Martin said.
Even the candles have to be approved.
"[We had to] make sure they couldn't be knocked over easily to catch on fire," she said.
The Knoxville Fire Department deputy chief says they do inspections annually, sometimes more often, such as during football season.
"We do what we call nocturnal inspections. So what we will do is just pick one and just visit some bars and night clubs that night and we'll go in and check on them to make sure they're up to code during their operation," Deputy Chief Roger Byrd explained.
The fire in Brazil is believed to be caused by the band's pyrotechnics, something that is rare in the Knoxville bar scene.
"Most of them couldn't do it even if they wanted to just because of the fall out areas, building heights. It's a very strict requirement," Byrd said.
Byrd also said if a venue wants pyrotechnics a fire inspector must be there during the event to ensure everything goes as planned.
For Martin, the fire in Brazil makes her extra cautious of keeping everything in check.
"It's always a fear," Martin said. "Especially when you have so many people in here. Because really we are responsible for these people while they're in our building."
According to the City of Knoxville Fire Department, they have not closed a venue due to fire code violations in more than four years. They have written citations for overcrowding, but none in the last year.
As for the county, the Fire Prevention Bureau was unable to give us specific numbers on citations Monday evening.