On April 27, 1998, a fire in an occupied board and care facility in Arlington, Washington killed eight of the building’s 32 residents. The facility was originally built as a hospital but had undergone several renovations and changes in usage over the years, and was not equipped with an automatic fire sprinkler system. A local fire alarm system was installed with hardwired, AC powered smoke detectors and heat detectors in corridors and common areas. There were also manual pull stations next to the exterior exit doors.
The fire was determined to be incendiary in nature, and is believed to have begun when a resident ignited her bedding material with either a lighter or matches. Based on NFPA’s investigation and analysis, the following were significant factors contributing to the loss of life in this incident.
- Lack of an automatic fire sprinkler system
- Lack of system smoke detectors in the room of origin
- An open door in the room of origin
- Additional open doors