During the night of November 28, 1942, the club had 1,000 occupants, many of whom were about to go on military duty. The nightclub was meant to hold less than that amount of people. The owner, Barney Welanskey was involved with the mafia, and he hired underage children as his workers. The club was littered with flammable palm trees and other decorations that hid exit signs. Some of the doors were welded shut to prevent people from leaving without paying their dues.
Accounts of this vary, but most people agree that a busboy was using a lit match to help him see what he was doing when he changed a lightbulb. The ceiling caught fire at about 10:15 PM. It took 15 minutes for the fire to envelop the nightclub. 492 people died after paper decorations caught fire. It was the worst night club fire in US history.
The owner eventually was imprisoned for this.