Surgical fires: Keys to awareness and prevention


A surgical fire is one that occurs on or in a surgical patient and can happen anywhere surgical procedures are performed, including hospital operating rooms, ambulatory surgery centers, and outpatient clinics. While the number of reported surgical fires is low, the goal for any facility where surgical procedures are performed is that a surgical fire never occur. Several voluntary and regulatory agencies publish recommendations, guidelines, and regulations related to fire safety planning and procedures, as well as protocols for reporting a surgical fire, should one occur. Education and awareness are key elements of fire prevention and it takes the active participation of every member of the perioperative team to support these efforts.

The purpose of this continuing educational activity is to provide basic information about surgical fires, including how they occur and practices to prevent them. The fire triangle will be discussed along with the components within the surgical arena that can contribute to the risk of a fire. Regulatory bodies and professional organizations and the specific influence they have over fire safety and prevention will be reviewed, as well as the potential consequences of a surgical fire. Finally, tools that are available for education and prevention of surgical fires will be presented. Case studies will provide the participant with an opportunity to integrate the information presented with patient scenarios and interventions related to surgical fire situations.



Upon completion of this continuing education activity, the participant should be able to:

  1. Describe the components of the fire triangle as they relate to the perioperative setting.
  2. Discuss potential consequences of a surgical fire.
  3. Explain measures that can be implemented to prevent surgical fires.
  4. List emergency steps to take in the event of a surgical fire.
  5. Identify tools available to assess fire risk in the operating room.
  6. Evaluate patient care scenarios for appropriateness of interventions.


Intended audience

This independent learning activity is intended for use by perioperative nurses, surgical technologists, and other healthcare professionals who are responsible for safe patient practices knowing that fire is always a potential during surgical procedures.

Content shown provided by Pfiedler Enterprises. Full references are available within the CE program, accessible via the link above.