Psychological sequelae of the station nightclub fire: Comparing survivors with and without physical injuries using a mixed-methods analysis

PLoS One. 2014 Dec 23;9(12):e115013. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0115013. eCollection 2014.


Background: Surveying survivors from a large fire provides an opportunity to explore the impact of emotional trauma on psychological outcomes.

Methods: This is a cross-sectional survey of survivors of The Station Fire. Primary outcomes were post-traumatic stress (Impact of Event Scale - Revised) and depressive (Beck Depression Inventory) symptoms. Linear regression was used to examine differences in symptom profiles between those with and without physical injuries. The free-response section of the survey was analyzed qualitatively to compare psychological sequelae of survivors with and without physical injuries.

Results: 104 participants completed the study survey; 47% experienced a burn injury. There was a 42% to 72% response rate range. The mean age of respondents was 32 years, 62% were male, and 47% experienced a physical injury. No significant relationships were found between physical injury and depressive or post-traumatic stress symptom profiles. In the qualitative analysis, the emotional trauma that survivors experienced was a major, common theme regardless of physical injury. Survivors without physical injuries were more likely to experience survivor guilt, helplessness, self-blame, and bitterness. Despite the post-fire challenges described, most survivors wrote about themes of recovery and renewal.

Conclusions: All survivors of this large fire experienced significant psychological sequelae. These findings reinforce the importance of mental health care for all survivors and suggest a need to understand factors influencing positive outcomes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Burns / physiopathology
  • Burns / psychology*
  • Cognition
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Fires*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Rhode Island
  • Survivors / psychology*

Grant support

This project was supported in part by a pilot grant from the International Association of Fire Fighters and under a grant from the Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research grant number H133A120034. The funders had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.