Posted on 17/04/2024 in Fire Safety 2024
Historic fires show need for action

Webinar on 1963 Fitchville nursing home fire shows that fire safety improvements are slow and often inadequate. The webinar, by Eric Ebinger, author, historian and HR and EH&S manager, explained how 63 residents tragically died in the Golden Age Nursing Home fire, Fitchville, Ohio, in 1963 (of 84 residents in the home). Mr Ebinger identified six other US nursing home fires in the 1950’s, including in Missouri 1957, 57 dead. The Golden Age was in a 1948 building, originally a toy factory, which had passed all inspections and was considered well run at the time. The fire started in mains electrical cables in the attic, which had not been replaced nor repaired despite previously having shown repeated overloading (fuses blowing). The fire then spread with dry dust and wood in the loft. The fire report concluded that, in addition to this known electrical danger, the following factors contributed to the fire tragedy: a lack of extinguishers, accumulated dry materials in the attic, the combustible tar roof, doorways too narrow for wheelchairs (this blocked escape), non-breakable sealed windows, inadequate staff on duty at the time. After the fire authorities took some actions including adding electrical safety to nursing home inspections, changes to the Building Code and staff ratio obligations, fire drill obligations (but these are maybe unrealistic). Automatic sprinklers however were only effectively introduced in 2013, when they were made a condition for Medicare funding.

“Still Not Safe: The Fire that Woke a Nation”, pinfa-NA webinar with Eric Ebinger, presented 20th March 2024, watch here

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