KyoAni survivors’ experiences inform fire evacuation guidelines

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Members of the Minato Fire Station in Nagoya show the way to escape by getting low to the floor in Minato Ward, Nagoya, on July 12.

Evacuation guidelines created using lessons learned from the deadly 2019 arson attack on the Kyoto Animation Co. studio have been used in firefighting drills nationwide.

The guidelines were compiled by the Kyoto City Fire Department based on statements from more than 30 people who escaped the fire, which killed 36 and injured 32. The practical guidelines based on their actual experiences seem to have led to the guidelines being highly regarded among firefighters.

On the morning of July 18, 2019, Shinji Aoba, who has been charged with murder, spread gasoline on the first floor of KyoAni’s No. 1 studio in Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, and ignited it. Of the 70 people in the building, 36 died. It appears smoke and flames spread inside the building within a minute, causing those who were trapped to immediately lose consciousness.

Most of the 34 people who escaped the fire jumped off the balcony of the second floor. Three of them were rescued after fleeing to the bathroom to escape the smoke.

The city fire department interviewed the survivors about how they got out immediately after the incident and compiled the “guidelines to protect lives in the event of fire” based on their statements in March 2020.

As examples, the guidelines call for temporarily evacuating to a room that smoke and flames cannot enter and waiting for rescue; opening a window and leaning out of the window frame by bending one’s body in the shape of a boomerang to breathe the air outside; and hanging from the window frame before jumping down.

The fire department received a large number of inquiries from firefighting officials after it released the guidelines on its website.

The Minato Fire Station in Minato Ward, Nagoya, began utilizing the guidelines in disaster drills at facilities in the city in May.

During a fire drill held at Kourakuso, a special nursing care facility for the aged in Minato Ward, Nagoya, on July 12, a member of the fire station’s disaster prevention division told about 10 facility employees to get as low as possible and breathe the fresh air near the floor. “It is the only way to survive,” the official said.

Division chief Kazutaka Tanemura said: “It used to be difficult to popularize some evacuation methods, such as jumping from a building’s second floor, because of the risk of injury. But it became easier to gain the public’s understanding of such measures by explaining that it was an action taken by a survivor of the KyoAni attack.”

The Tokushima City Fire Department has been using the guidelines during evacuation drills since January in the wake of an incident in which a man sprayed gasoline in the elevator hall of a multitenant building and ignited it during a live performance by an idol group in Tokushima in March last year.