Today in fire history: smoking materials cause a fire in a board and care facility killing 10 and injuring 3 others

Blog Post created by paulalevesque Employee on May 13, 2014

On Tuesday, May 13, 1997, a fire occurred at a board and care facility in Harveys Lake, Pennsylvania. HarveysLakeState fire investigators determined that the fire most likely started on a screened-in porch. Investigators determined that the fire was caused by disposal of smoking materials on the screened-in porch area of the building. The fire killed ten residents and injured three others. The building was heavily damaged by the fire, and the property loss was estimated at $270,000.

The facility was a two-story plus basement, wood-frame structure with several additions that had been made over time, which increased the size of the building. Fire protection features included a fire alarm system with smoke detectors and heat detectors, and fire extinguishers. Interior stairways were enclosed. Steel doors with self-closing devices protected openings to the stairways; however, the self-closing device on one of the stairway doors was deactivated. Wall and ceiling finishes were noncombustible. The facility was not equipped with an automatic sprinkler system. 

Based on the NFPA's investigation and analysis of this fire, the following factors were considered to have contributed significantly to the loss of life and property in this incident:

  Improper use or disposal of smoking materials.

  Ineffective resident and staff action.

  Inadequate means of egress.

  Open fire doors in vertical fire separations.

  Room doors with inadequate fire resistance ratings.

  Lack of automatic door closing devices on individual room doors.

  Lack of automatic sprinkler system.

To read about this board and care facility fire NFPA Fire Investigations.

For more information on board and care facility fires NFPA's Fire Analysis and Research