The families of four men killed nearly eight years ago in a fire at a Southeast Washington club for homosexuals have been awarded more than $1.5 million by a D.C. Superior Court judge.

The four men died as a result of the October 1977 afternoon fire at the Cinema Follies theater club. At least five other men also died in the fire, which investigators later blamed on a spark from a rug shampooer.

Judge Robert A. Shuker on Monday ordered Cascade Inc. and U.L. Street Inc., two of the corporations involved in the club, to make the payments to the four families who had filed suit against the corporations. A hearing in the case was held in January.

At the time of the fire, the incident at the L Street SE establishment became widely publicized because many of the injured and dead were married and had children and held a wide array of professional jobs.

In 1979, one of the owners was fined $650 in D.C. Superior Court after he was found guilty of violating the city's building code, including maintaining a wooden stairway to the second floor of the theater and maintaining a wooden stage on that floor.

Fire investigators said the fire occurred when a spark from a rug shampooer ignited flammable cleaning fluid at the foot of the wooden staircase. The fire then shot up the staircase, engulfing the drapes and walls and trapping the men in a second-floor movie theater.