Articles Posted in Fires in Nursing Homes

Earlier this month in High Point, North Carolina, a fire broke out in a nursing home that resulted in four residents being taken to the hospital with varying degrees of smoke inhalation and burns. According to a report by one local news source, the fire broke out just after noon at the PruittHealth skilled nursing facility.

Evidently, the fire broke out in one of the patient’s rooms. The exact cause of the fire is unknown, but investigators told reporters that it could have been caused by an overloaded electrical outlet, possibly with multiple cell phone chargers plugged into it.

Investigators mentioned that the nursing facility had luckily recently installed an updated sprinkler system throughout the facility, which likely prevented the fire from spreading beyond the room in which it started. Prior to the installation of the system, the nursing home did not have any system in place to prevent the spread of fires.

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Earlier this month, a two-alarm fire in a Towson assisted living facility threatened to evacuate a multi-story building. According to a report by a local news source, the fire occurred in an assisted living facility on Joppa Road shortly after 7:30 in the morning. Evidently, fire officials say that they found thick, black smoke on the fourth, fifth, and sixth floors. The fire apparently began in one of the units’ kitchen and was kept under control by the kitchen’s sprinkler system.

While no one was forced to evacuate the building, several residents chose to do so on their own, citing concerns over their own safety. After fire crews arrived and began to put the fire out, it was completely contained within 20 minutes. Thankfully, there were no injuries.

Fire Preparedness is Crucial in Assisted Living Facilities

The assisted living facility mentioned above was a high-rise with hundreds of people inside. Many of the people in the building had limited mobility due to a variety of health conditions. Therefore, the threat of a fire must be taken very seriously.

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Earlier this month in New York, a nursing home caught fire and several of its residents had to be taken to the hospital. According to a report by the Riverdale Press, the Kingsbridge Heights Rehabilitation Care Center caught fire around 5:30 a.m. on March 9th.

Nearly 60 firefighters from the Fire Department of New York responded to the call, putting the fire out in just about 22 minutes. Two were taken to the hospital, one with life threatening injuries and another with more minor injuries. Only one of the injured was a resident of the nursing home, at the time of the story, it was unclear whether the severely injured victim was a resident or whether it was the non-resident.

A spokesperson for Kingsbridge Heights Rehabilitation Care Center explained that, “Representatives from the fire marshal’s office did come to inspect, and stated the staff should be commended.” However, the police are still investigating the cause of the fire and have not yet ruled out the possibility that it had something to do with the negligence of a nursing home employee or staff member.

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A recent Connecticut Supreme Court decision could have a major impact on nursing home litigation.

The case arose out of a 2003 fire in a Hartford nursing home, which killed 16 elderly and disabled individuals. Following the catastrophic event, 13 separate individuals filed suit. However, none of the plaintiffs in the case have received any redress, due to a dispute over the limitations of the nursing home’s professional liability policy.

The fire broke out when a psychiatric patient set her bed on fire with a cigarette lighter. Relatives of 13 of the 16 victims sued the nursing home’s operator for damages, saying it failed to adequately supervise the woman. The lawsuit also made negligence claims for insufficient response and a lack of safety training by the nursing home staff.

The policy limit dispute centered on the meaning of the $1 million coverage versus the total coverage for the company who owned the home (and several others) of $10 million. Specifically contested were the terms “aggregate policy limit.” The Connecticut Supreme Court’s majority opinion held that the policy, when read in whole, meant that the plaintiffs had access to only $1 million for this particular home, and that the $10 million was the limit for all of the company’s homes combined.

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Prosecutors in Northfield, Minnesota have charged a 46 year-old assisted-living facility resident with arson after he allegedly set fire to clothing in his closet, displacing forty other residents for several days. William Jerald Kelly reportedly came forward to admit he started the fire. The criminal complaint, filed in Rice County District Court in late February, says that Ryan claimed he started the fire because he was “tired of people being mistreated and being bullied.” He allegedly told an officer after the fire that he did not tell anyone of his concerns because “it wouldn’t have done any good.” Police put Kelly on a psychological hold the day after the fire and sent him to a local hospital for evaluation. The Northfield Deputy Police Chief told the media that Kelly “likely has a mental disability.” He is scheduled for his first court appearance on April 3. The felony arson charge carries a penalty of up to twenty years in prison, a fine of up to $20,000, or both.

The fire occurred on Sunday, February 5, 2012 at about 7:30 p.m. in Kelly’s apartment. The evacuation reportedly began during the halftime show of the Super Bowl. Fire crews evacuated all of the residents and contained the fire to the one unit. The rest of the facility suffered smoke damage, however, so residents were not able to return immediately. Fortunately, no one was injured, and the residents were able to return to the facility within a few days.

Residents were evacuated to several locations, including nearby hospitals and a Red Cross shelter. They first went to a church across the street from the facility, where emergency responders picked them up. All residents were accounted for within minutes of the evacuation.

Police almost immediately suspected that the fire was set intentionally. Kelly reportedly approached police soon after the evacuation to admit his role in starting it. The criminal complaint says that he told police he set fire to some of his clothes in his closet. He then triggered the fire alarm, locked the door to his bedroom, and went out an entrance door and into the parking lot. Kelly reportedly told police he did not intend to hurt anyone.

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A fire at a nursing home in Charlotte, North Carolina injured two residents in February 2011. One of the victims was reportedly burned trying to help the other resident put the flames out. The names of the two victims have not been released. Both survived their injuries, although initial reports suggested one victim had sustained life-threatening injuries. The fire forced 170 residents to evacuate the 180-bed facility. The building itself was undamaged.

Residents were moved to nearby hospitals and other nursing homes while the North Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control investigated and oversaw the cleanup. A staff member of the nursing home told local news at first that a cigarette started the fire, although smoking is banned at the facility. Fire officials eventually concluded that high heat and a flammable substance caused the fire. Towels washed in an alcohol-based fabric softener were placed in commercial dryers that use higher temperatures than smaller dryers used in single-family homes. The smoldering towels were placed in a linen closet, where they ignited and started the fire.

The state’s Department of Health and Human Services also investigated the incident, which is standard procedure whenever a resident sustains an injury requiring anything beyond first aid. An inspection of the nursing home in 2010 by federal regulators gave it an “average” ranking.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2010 fire departments in the United States responded to 384,000 fires in homes, with 2,640 deaths and 13,350 injuries. These figures do not include firefighters injured or killed in the line of duty. This averages to one fire-related death every 169 minutes in 2010, and an injury once every thirty minutes. Eighty-five percent of 2010 U.S. fire deaths occurred in homes. Inhalation of smoke or poisonous gases is the leading cause of death in fires, as opposed to burn injuries. Most residential fires resulted from cooking, while most fire-related fatalities resulted from smoking.

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