On, March 4, 1991 a fire of accidental origin occurred at Crystal Springs Estate, a board and care facility, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Nine of the building's 25 elderly residents died during the fire. In addition, eight other residents and five firefighters were injured.
The single-story masonry and wood structure, with two separate partial basements, was divided into three fire compartments by noncombustible walls, and the corridor openings in these walls were protected with fire doors. A fire alarm system using heat detectors as the primary initiating device protected all rooms, closets, and attic spaces. Manual pull stations and smoke detectors located next to the fire doors were also connected to this fire alarm system. The activation of any device in the fire alarm system would initiate alarm chimes throughout the building and would send a signal to a central monitoring station. A separate alarm system of interconnected corridor smoke detectors was also provided and only initiated a local alarm upon the activation of any detector on the system.
An electric motor in a ventilation fan apparently malfunctioned, overheated, and ignited combustible materials in the attic above the east wing. The fire burned for an undetermined period of time, spreading in the attic space above several rooms before causing the ceiling to collapse in a residents' lounge. At approximately 12:35 a.m., smoke entering the occupied space activated the corridor smoke detection system, and staff began their emergency procedures.
The fire also breached a wall between the wing of origin and a dining room and spread across the combustible ceiling in the dining room. Because there was no fire door between the dining room and the corridor in the west wing, smoke and fire extended to that corridor.
The first firefighters on the scene found the dining room fully involved in fire with heavy smoke and some fire extension in corridors of both wings. They started simultaneous rescue and suppression operations. All survivors were rescued during the first half hour, and fire suppression operations continued for approximately 4 1/2 hours. In addition to the nine fatalities and eight injured residents, the fire destroyed two of the building's three wings.
The following factors appear to have significantly contributed to the loss of life:
• Heat detector system in the attic did not provide early warning,
• Fire separations did not prevent the spread of smoke and fire,
• Combustible ceiling in the dining room,
• Lack of adequate firesafety training for staff and residents.
NFPA members can download the full investigaion report Board and Care Facility Fire. Those interested in more information about board and care fires can download NFPA's Structure Fires in Residential board and Care Facilities report and fact sheet. For more information on firefighter injuries download Firefighter Injuries in the United States