Authorities were considering carelessness, a short circuit and arson as possible causes of the fire, Kudinov said. Petrov said a faulty electrical wire may have been the cause.
Russia records nearly 18,000 fire deaths a year, several times the per capita rate in the United States and other Western countries. Last year, an average of just under 600 fires were recorded daily, killing 17,065 people in the nation of 142 million - down nearly 7 percent from 2005 but still almost 50 fire deaths every day.
In the past year, the emergencies ministry has published lists of dozens of buildings, including medical facilities and schools, where glaring fire safety violations were discovered. Many have been corrected, it says.
Emergency official Sergei Salov said on Channel One that an inspection of the nursing home in Kamyshevatskaya in early 2006 uncovered 36 fire safety violations, and that 30 of them had been corrected before a subsequent check. He did not detail the violations, but Channel One said the facility did not have enough fire extinguishers and gas masks.
A fire station in Kamyshevatskaya was closed late last year, and Russia's chief fire inspector, Yuri Nenashev, said local authorities had neglected their responsibility to form a new fire depatrment.
"The fire station was closed and has been plundered," local resident Pavel Babenko told Channel One. "Nobody cares about anything."