(Edifico Joelma)(Edifico Praca da Bandeira)
R. Santo Antonio
140 – Bela Vista
Status: Disaster Site; High Fatality Site; High Rise Building
This Article describes one of the Worst Fires in the World. Reader Discretion is Advised.
The Joelma Building, the original name of this 25-story building, was completed in 1971. The name change is because the second worst skyscraper fire by deaths – the first being the World Trade Center in New York City – in history is associated with the original name.
On February 1, 1974 at 8:50 am an air conditioner on the 12th floor overheated and caught fire. The interior of the building had been furnished with extremely flammable materials and within 20 minutes the entire building was aflame.
At the time of the fire there was no emergency lights nor fire alarms nor a sprinkler system. There was one stairway and it only reached the 15th floor and essentially became a giant chimney preventing even firemen from using it. The air conditioner needed a special circuit breaker which was not available so the electrical panel was simply bypassed when it was installed.
There were 756 people in the building when the fire broke out.
Due to the extreme circumstances of the building construction more than 300 people were rescued using the elevators – a escape route not recommended in any fire – before the fire shut them down. 171 people made it to the roof but rescue helicopters could not land due to the heat and smoke – by 930 am the roof was completely engulfed in flames. 80 people hid under the tiles on the roof and were found alive after the fire.
The rest of the people tried to escape the inferno and smoke by getting to the balconies. 40 people jumped trying to reach fire ladders many floors below them; none survived.
By 10:30 am the fire had burnt itself out, only because it had run out of things to burn, making it safe for rescue personnel to gain access and look for survivors. The building itself was constructed from fire resistant concrete so did not suffer significant damage or collapse.
At 1:30pm the fire was declared as out. The death toll was between 179 and 189 with more than 300 suffering injuries.
The building was closed for 4 years of reconstruction. When it opened it exceeded all fire regulations including a number of new ones that were created because of this fire.
Many of the fire safety regulations we have today worldwide are because of this horrific fire.
Many believe the land the building was constructed on was cursed and the curse caused the fire with its terrible number of fatalities. Former to the building being built there was a house on the site where a doctor had murdered his family. The area was also used as a slave market before this and saw unimaginable pain, torture and suffering.
In the Sao Pedro Cemetery (7 miles away) there is a mass grave of 13 people. These people tried to escape using the elevator as so many had done earlier but they were suffocated to death and then burned by the fire. There was no way to separate the remains so they were buried in a mass grave.
Visitors to the cemetery began to report phantom screams, moans and cries for help that were traced back to the mass grave. Unable to silence the voices the cemetery caretaker – in desperation I’m sure – poured water on the grave. The voices quieted and now a glass of water is left on the grave to this day.
In the building itself, people have reported the phantom smell of smoke and sudden areas of uncomfortable heat. Others have met people looking burned or in blackened torn clothes desperately looking for help and escape only to suddenly disappear.
Disembodied whispers, cries of pain and suffering as well as voices are heard. The cars in the parking lot in the lower floors had almost seemed to come alive with lights going on and off and horns beeping when they are empty.
A Buddhist monk has been brought in the bless the building which helped a little but he said it would be impossible to placate the number of ghosts in the building.