Triangle Company occupied the last three floors of the Asch building, which had 10 floors in total, on the corner of the Greene Street and Washington Place, and employed about 600 workers, most of them young immigrant women who worked 14 hours a day, in work weeks of 60-72 hours, sewing clothing for modest wages between 6 and 10 dolars a week.
The factory conditions were typical of that time: inflamable textiles were stored in the whole factory, smoking was frequent, lighting was by gas and there were no fire extinguishers. During the fatal afternoon of March 25, a fire broke out. The employees of the tenth and eighth floors were notified and most of them saved themselves, but the alert for the ninth floor took too long to arrive. It had only two exits: one of the stairs was filled with fumes and flames when the workers realized the building was on fire. The other door was closed in order to prevent the workers to steal materials or take brakes. The only exterior emergency exit was soon ruined by the weight of the seamstresses who tried to escape.
The firemen arrived fast, although there were no available stairs beyond the sixth floor. Only one survivor was found, almost drowned, near the elevator's ascension conduct.