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Burned Nursing Home Unlicensed Since 1988 With PM-Retirement Home Fire

March 5, 1991

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) _ The Crystal Springs Estate retirement home had been allowed to operate without a state license since 1988, partly because of a dispute over fire safety equipment at the facility, state records show.

The Colorado Department of Health knew for more than two years about fire safety violations at the retirement home where nine people died in a fire Monday, but officials allowed the facility to keep operating, according to state inspection reports.

Because of the fire-safety problems, the health department refused to license Crystal Springs Estate, but made no effort to shut down the personal- care boarding home.

A fire in the home early Monday killed nine residents; seven others were hospitalized.

The most recent state inspection, in September 1990, found ″smoke detectors ... not wired into the electrical system.″ The health department also ordered that detectors be installed in hallways and common areas ″with warning to all bedrooms.″

The latter order had been repeated in inspection reports since 1989 and was not heeded, according to the reports. But the department’s health facilities division did not threaten to close the home - as it could under state law - to force compliance.

″I don’t think if those detectors had been there two years ago it would have made any difference,″ said Paul Daraghy, director of the division, noting the fire is believed to have started in the attic and existing detectors alerted the staff.

He said the decision to shut down the home or not would have been a tough one to make.

″These people who live in these types of facilities are generally not the kind who can afford nursing homes,″ Daraghy said. ″And the alternative is out on the street.″

Personal care boarding homes are required to be licensed by the state, but they can remain open while their application for a license is reviewed, said Sue Rehak, also of the health facilities division.

″Their application (for a license) is active,″ so the home was operating legally, Rehak said.

She said it is somewhat unusual for the license application process to take three years, but noted that Crystal Springs Estate was not the only case where such a delay had occurred.

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