Nursing Home Residents Missing After Fire

La Residence du Havre

In the early morning hours on January 23, 2014, a fire tore through a three-story nursing home community in L’Isle-Verten, a small town located in Quebec, Canada. The community, La Residence du Havre, served as a home for seniors who require assisted living, and provided an autonomous living environment for them as well. Some of its residents were known to have Alzheimer’s disease. The residence was home to at least 52 residents, with 37 of the residents being over 85 years of age.

In late January, the majority of North America was experiencing a sequence of “Polar Vortices,” a weather phenomenon that brought unusually cold temperatures to much of the continent. The weather made it incredibly difficult for firefighters to combat the blaze at the nursing home, as hoses and water froze very rapidly in the frigid night. Some residents did manage to escape the blaze, but up to 30 were noted as missing after the fire, many of which are presumed dead and buried in the icy remains of the burned building. The missing residents’ relatives were immediately contacted, in hopes of locating the missing individuals.

It is reported that the fire started after a resident of the facility sneaked a cigarette in his room, which ultimately started the blaze. However, the more serious contributing factor to the horror of that night was that the facility had no automatic sprinkler system installed in the building.

Could Something Like This Happen in the US?

Federal standards concerning fire safety in nursing homes have been enacted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). As of August 13, 2013, in the United States, each and every nursing home that receives Medicare and/or Medicaid reimbursement funding is required, without exception, to have a complete-coverage automatic fire sprinkler system installed in the facility. This requirement was developed over a long period of time, and is a direct response to a history of nursing home fire catastrophes that occurred in the United States over a period of 100 years. Nursing homes that do not comply with the standards are subject to a financial penalty, and risk losing the opportunity to participate in the Medicare/Medicaid program.

The Importance of Fire Sprinklers in Nursing Homes

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has conducted thorough research on fire statistics for nursing home facilities. In a report covering data from 2006-2010, of the approximately 6,250 reported structure fires that occur at healthcare facilities annually, 46 percent occur at nursing homes. While most fires are usually small, staying within the room of origin, approximately 4 percent of fires spread into other rooms, or reach other portions of the facility. Most disturbing, is that only 55 percent of the reported cases of fires in health care facilities were in facilities that had sprinkler systems.

The NFPA noted that nursing homes fires are often result because a resident forgets they have done something that could start a fire. Specifically, more than half of nursing home fires start because a resident forgets they are cooking or baking something. Nursing home fires are most prevalent in January, during the weekend, during the morning hours and in the late afternoon.

If someone you love resides in an Illinois’ nursing home and you have concerns about the home’s fire prevention compliance, please contact our Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Law Firm today either online or at (847) 869-9100 to discuss your concerns.

Photo Credit: visualpanic via Compfight cc

Source:  Susanna Capelouto and Ralph Ellis, 22 Seniors Missing in Quebec Nursing Home Fire Feared Dead, CNN – Cable News Network, Posted January 26, 2014

AnneClaire Stapleton and Jason Hanna, Fire at Quebec Seniors’ Home Leaves 5 Dead, 30 Missing, CNN – Cable News Network, Posted January 24, 2014

Kathleen Robinson, Long Time Coming, National Fire Protection Association

Marty Ahrens, Fires in Health Care Facilities, National Fire Protection Association, Fire Analysis and Research Division, November 2012

Christie Blatchford, Christie Blatchford on the Quebec Nursing Home Fire: A Simple Solution to Saving Lives — Automatic Sprinklers, National Post, January 27, 2014