Shortly after 9:25 p.m., on January 12, 1984, a private patient attendant discovered a fire involving furnishings in a exit access corridor at the Beaumont Nursing Home in Little Rock, Arkansas and notified nursing staff. After being notified by the attendant, the staff initiated emergency procedures which included evacuating those patients closest to the fire and closing remaining patient room doors. Fire department units arrived at the Beaumont Nursing Home at approximately 9:38 p.m. and found fire showing in the northeast corner of the building. Fire fighters observed the nursing staff and civilians in the process of evacuating some of the 57 patients from the home. The fire caused severe damage to a section of the building,and resulted in the death of two patients and injury to 12 others.
The one-story Beaumont Nursing Home was built in two separate sections separated by a four-hour fire wall. The section on the building in which the fire occurred was built in 1954, and was of ordinary construction. Fire protection features in this section of the building included automatic sprinkler protection and automatic smoke detector protection connected to a building fire alarm system
Fire department investigators have determined the cause of the fire to be an electrical short in an extension cord which ignited furnishings in an exit access corridor. Investigators also determined that the water supply to the automatic sprinkler system had been shut off; the automatic smoke detection system was not functioning properly; and there was a delay in the notification of the fire department. As a result, the fire was able to develop undetected by automatic systems and was well established at the time of discovery. This allowed heat and smoke to spread throughout this section of the nursing home.
Five significant factors were identified during the investigation as contributing factors to the loss of life and injuries from this fire. These factors were:
• A closed valve due to a ruptured underground supply line preventing water flow
from the public main into the building's sprinkler system;
• The lack of a properly functioning building fire alarm system;
• The location of the "T.V. room" in the exit access corridor;
• A delay by nursing staff in the notification of the fire department;
• The failure of established inspection and testing programs to identify deficiencies
in various components of the fire protection systems provided at the nursing home.