Today in fire history: a three-year old child playing with a cigarette lighter causes a fire that kills 14

Blog Post created by paulalevesque Employee on Nov 11, 2014


On November 11, 1979, 14 people died in a fire at the Coats Rooming House in Pioneer, Ohio.  A three-year-old child playing with a cigarette lighter was responsible for a rapidly spreading fire that killed 13 residents and one of the owners of the home.   The fire started in a sofa in one of the two apartment units located on the first floor of the structure.  

The boarding home provided room and board for eleven elderly private residents and eight mentally retarded residents who had been referred to the boarding home after being released from a state mental health care facility.  Two rented apartment units in the building had an additional five occupants.  The home was operated by the owners, who also resided in the building.

Combustible interior finish, heavy fuel loading, lack of compartmentation, a single means of egress from the second floor, and the apparent lack of response of some of the residents to the fire conditions contributed to the 14 fatalities.  

To see the full NFPA Fire Investigation  Download this Pioneer, OH report For NFPA's statistical information Playing with Fire