During the 6 years between 1980 and 1985, 39 nursing home patients were admitted to the Hvidovre Burns Unit in Copenhagen with accidental burns. These patients accounted for 20 per cent of all burn patients above the age of 69 years admitted during this period. The median age of the patients was 80 years. Two-thirds of them suffered from burns of less than 15 per cent of their total body surface area. The mortality rate was 64 per cent. All patients were burned in single-person accidents, most often while sitting alone in their own living room, and smoking materials were involved in 85 per cent of the injuries. Senility, hemiplegia and other neurological diseases with tremor or paresis were frequently present in the victims. Several preventive measures are proposed, including smoking under supervision, use of flame-resistant aprons of adequate size, flame-resistant materials in chairs, etc., and installation of smoke detectors in rooms where patients smoke. A possible relation between the marked incidence of these accidents during weekends or holidays, at a time when staff numbers are reduced in the nursing homes, is discussed.