A multiple-death fire occurred on March 21, 1988 at the Oakville Heath Care Center, a nursing home
located at 3391 Old Getwell Road in Memphis, Tennessee. The patient involved in the ignition of the fire and two other patients in the room of origin were killed, and 18 others were injured.
The two-story, fire-resistive building in which the incident occurred contained 27 sleeping rooms housing 73 non-ambulatory patients and 1 patient who was reported as being ambulatory. The building had no automatic sprinkler system or automatic fire detection system, except a smoke detector used in conjunction with a pair of corridor smoke doors. the building did have a manually activated fire alarm system which automatically transmitted alarms to the fire department.
The fire originated in a first floor room occupied by three patients. Considerable smoke and toxic gases spread throughout the building; however, the fire was held to the room of origin as a result of staff efforts at extinguishment. All patients, except for the three in the room of origin, were evacuated.
The significant factors contributing to the multiple deaths in this fire were:
• The rapid growth and development of a fire that resulted from the ignition
of patient room furnishings and contents;
• The lack of suppression of the fire in the incipient stage by automatic
• The lack of automatic early detection and warning of the fire that could have
resulted in earlier staff actions.