received little notice at the time because President John F. Kennedy was assassinated a day earlier in Dallas.
Nursing home safety standards were lax and antiquated and the blaze led to major reforms.
There were no sprinklers and no manual fire alarms.
Patients were restrained to their beds.
Others were trapped behind wheelchairs too wide for the exits.
Even so, 21 patients survived along with three staff members.
The nursing home was located north of Fitchville, a village near New London.
Trucker Henry Dahman, of Sarber, Pa., reported the fire at 5 a.m. as he drove north along Route 250, according to the Mansfield News-Journal.
Flames were shooting from the roof and walls, he told firemen.
New London firemen reached the scene at 5:10 a. m.
North Fairfield firemen arrived at 5:30 a. m.
Many others followed.
"The place was on fire from one end to the other," New London Chief Al Walters said.
Investigators determined the cause was electrical in nature.
Recalling the fire, Fitchville Township trustee Robert White, who was in eighth grade at the time, told the Sandusky Register: “First JFK was killed, then the fire. It was horrible.”
Today, all that remains at the site is a historical marker.
Fire departments from New London, Greenwich, North Fairfield, and Plymouth responded.
Ignited by the arcing of overloaded wiring, the incident called for action to require sprinklers, automatic fire detection systems, and electrical wiring compliance to building codes in all nursing homes.
The worst tragedy of its kind in the nation, the incident was overshadowed by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and was not widely reported.
Twenty-one unclaimed bodies were interred in a 60-foot grave in Woodlawn Cemetery in Norwalk.
Link to report on fire response