MOSCOW – Russian police detained a man on Saturday suspected of starting a massive fire overnight at a bar in the historic city of Kostroma, which killed at least 15 people.
Firefighters worked through the night to put out the fire at the city’s popular Poligon bar, which is about 300 kilometers northeast of Moscow.
According to Russian media, the fire may have started when a drunk man fired a “flare gun” on the dance floor.
“Police officers identified and detained the suspect (behind) unlawful acts in an entertainment establishment in Kostroma, which resulted in a fire and the deaths of people,” Russian police said.
“He has now been handed over to investigative authorities,” the statement said, without going into further detail.
The Investigative Committee of Russia has opened a criminal case for “causing death by negligence.”
It released images from inside the burned-out building, showing a barely recognizable bar with some visible beer brand stickers. The bar had a collapsed roof and burnt-out walls, and it was nearly completely destroyed on the inside.
State television broadcast images of the bar, which was housed in a single-story logistical center, engulfed in flames at night.
The fire began around 2:00 a.m. local time (2300 GMT Saturday) and was extinguished around 7:30 a.m.
According to Kostroma regional governor Sergei Sitnikov, 13 people were killed.
“Two more bodies have been recovered.” This brings the total number of victims to 15, according to law enforcement sources cited by TASS.
Authorities previously stated that approximately 250 people were evacuated from the building after it caught fire.
According to TASS, who cited emergency service sources, the fire was likely started by a drunk man with a “flare gun.”
“He was in the bar with a woman, ordering her flowers, and holding a flare gun,” a source told the agency.
“He then proceeded to the dance floor and fired it.”
According to emergency services, the fire engulfed more than 3,500 square meters (37,700 square feet).
According to witnesses, there was panic when the fire started, and people rushed to an exit, causing a traffic jam. According to reports, one man forced a closed door open, potentially saving lives.
According to RIA Novosti, the bar belonged to Ikhtiyar Mirzoyev, a local deputy of the ruling United Russia party.
He told the news agency that he would “provide all necessary assistance to the families and loved ones of the deceased.”
Poligon describes itself as a “place for recreation and entertainment” in the evenings and at night on its website.
During the day, it is a typical Russian “stolovaya” — a casual restaurant serving traditional cuisine.
It claims to be housed in a “distribution center” and is well-liked by traffic cops.
Images on state television showed dozens of firefighters battling the inferno.
Among the raging flames on its roof was the sign “Poligon.”
According to one firefighter, it took 50 people to extinguish the blaze, which required the use of 20 fire engines.
He stated that the fire was especially difficult to extinguish due to the possibility of the building collapsing.
Kostroma, a city of around 230,000 people on the Volga River, is one of Russia’s oldest cities and is known for its medieval architecture and monasteries.
In recent years, there have been a number of fatal fires at entertainment venues in Russia, which frequently disregards safety regulations.
In 2018, a fire in a shopping mall in the Siberian city of Kemerovo killed 60 people.
Another fire at a nightclub in the Urals city of Perm in 2009 killed 156 people.