A LOOK BACK: Ashland, KY Nursing Home Fire - a sprinkler success

On August 13th, nursing homes and assisted living facilities will need a fully functioning fire protection system.  Click here to learn more about this new law.

A June 2, 1993 fire at the Elmwood Village Convalescent Home in Ashland, KY was contained to the room of origin by fire sprinklers.  With the combined efforts of staff, fire sprinklers, and fire department intervention, no fatalities occurred.

The Scene

The Elmwood Village Convalescent Home in Ashland, KY was initially built in 1960 as a single-story, wood-framed, brick veneered building.  Throughout the years, additions were built to accommodate an increase in residents.  The fire took place in a wing that was built in 1970.  A dry-sprinkler system with a standard response sprinkler system ran throughout the facility in all occupied areas, unheated areas, and concealed, combustible space below the roof.  Detection equipment protected the entire building to complement the fire sprinkler system.

All staff participated in quarterly fire safety training and evacuation drills.

The Event

The accidental fire ignited when a faulty plug or wiring for a heat pump ignited blankets and clothing in a resident’s room.  The fire spread to a wardrobe containing combustible materials.

During a scheduled resident check, a staff member discovered the fire and evacuated the room before the fire sprinklers activated.  In the rush of the moment, the staff person forgot to shut the door after evacuating the residents.  The staff member alerted other members of the fire and they evacuated all residents in the wing and nearby wings. 

As the evacuation was taking place, a single sprinkler head activated, controlling the flames to the room of origin.  Unfortunately, because the door was left ajar, smoke did spread throughout the wing of origin and to close by wings.

Once the sprinklers activated, an alert was sent to the Ashland Fire Department.  They arrived soon after and extinguished the flames.

The Aftermath

No fatalities occurred, but there were 19 minor injuries due to the smoke inhalation.  The fire would most likely have extinguished before fire fighters arrived if both fire sprinkler heads in the room activated.  It was later discovered that the sprinkler head that did not activate had debris clogging the water supply.  This shows the importance of ongoing fire sprinkler testing, inspection, and maintenance.

The well-trained staff and fire protection system saved the lives of the residents.  The NFPA concluded that the fire protection system, trained staff, and a quick response from fire fighters reduced the potential for a loss of life, decreased injuries, and decreased property damage.