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Edifício Joelma

Av. 9 de Julho 225 x Rua Santo Antônio, 184 - Pça da Bandeira - Centro
Sao Paulo SP Brazil

Construction Dates
Floor Count23
Basement Floors2
Building Uses
 - office
 - parking garage
Structural Types
 - highrise
Architectural Style
 - modern
 - glass
 - aluminium
 - concrete, reinforced
 - concrete

 Heights ValueSource / Comments 
Roof276 ft

Partially destroyed by fire in 1974.
Zip Code: 01312-000
6-storey Parking Lot Garage.

It was the site of a famous disaster, as at 8:50am on February 1st, 1974, an air conditioning unit on the twelfth floor overheated, starting a fire. Due to the fact that highly flammable materials had been used to construct it, the entire building was engulfed in flames within 20 minutes. By the time the fire was extinguished at 1:30pm, of the 756 persons in the building, 188 had been killed.

At the time, no emergency lights, fire alarms, fire sprinkler systems, or emergency exits were fitted to the building. There was only one stairwell, which ran the full height of the building. No evacuation plans had been posted in case of a fire.

At 8:50 am an air conditioner unit on the twelfth floor, which started the fire, needed a special type of circuit breaker, which was unavailable at the time it was installed. In order to use this unit, it was installed bypassing the twelfth floor electrical control panel.

Inside, the fire reached the building's only stairwell and climbed as high as the 15th floor. It did not reach any higher because of a lack of flammables in the stairwell, however it filled the well with smoke and heat, making it impassible. Fire crews attempted to gain access to the building using this stairwell, but could not go any higher than the 11th floor (the first floor consisting of business offices)

Approximately three hundred people were evacuated using the elevators, a practice that is not recommended by fire officials. The four elevator operators were only able to make a few trips, however, before conditions within the building made it impossible to continue.

Approximately 170 people went to the roof during the fire, in hopes of being rescued by helicopter. There was, however, no place clear enough or big enough for helicopters to land. Even if such had been put in, the strong heat and dense smoke made approaching the building by helicopter extremely hazardous. Approximately 80 people hid under the tiles on the roof of the building. They alone were found alive.
Some people had managed to climb out onto ledges, and a few were able to lower themselves from floor to floor, and were then able to climb down the aerial ladders, while being protected from heat, smoke, and flames. Most of the others stayed where they were until rescue teams could gain access to the building. Some people jumped, or fell, off the building. Fire crews tried to persuade them otherwise by holding up signs. All forty of these people were killed, thirty of whom died after the fire was already out.

By 10:30 am, the fire subsided. Two hours later, it had engulfed all flammables and simply burned itself out. Medical teams, fire crews and police were then able to enter the office towers and search for survivors. Upon competing their search, authorities found that 188 people died in this fire. At the time, this had been the greatest death toll in any high-rise building fire.

After the disaster the Joelma Buliding remained closed for 4 years for reconstruction. Once reconstructed it was renamed Praça da Bandeira ("Flag Square" the name of the square facing the building). Local legends claim that the building is still haunted by the spirits of some who died in the fire.

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