Wikipedia:Today's featured article/September 3, 2007

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A view of the cooker vat where the fire started

The Hamlet chicken processing plant fire was an industrial disaster that took place at the Imperial Foods chicken processing plant in Hamlet, North Carolina, USA, on September 3, 1991 after a failure in a faulty modification to a hydraulic line. Twenty-five people were killed and fifty-four injured in the fire as they were trapped behind locked fire doors. Due to a lack of inspectors, the plant had never received a safety inspection in eleven years of operation, and it is thought that a single inspection would have easily prevented the tragedy. A full federal investigation was launched, which resulted in the owner receiving a 20-year prison sentence, and the company received the highest fines ever handed out in the history of North Carolina. However, the investigation also highlighted failings in the authoritative enforcement of existing safety regulations, and resulted in a number of worker safety laws being passed. Accusations of racism were leveled at both the fire service and the city of Hamlet in the aftermath of the fire. The plant was never reopened. The fire remains the worst industrial disaster ever to strike North Carolina, and the third worst American industrial disaster, with only the 1947 Texas City disaster and the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire being worse. (more...)

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