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Fire, gas leak empties W.Va. nursing home

July 05, 1999

Home evacuationBy BRYN MICKLE / Staff Writer, Martinsburg

photo: MARLA BROSE / staff photographer




MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Residents of a Martinsburg nursing home spent about 45 minutes outside in the scorching heat Monday afternoon when a propane fire forced the evacuation of Care Haven of Berkeley on W.Va. 9.

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Ambulances took some of the 68 residents to nearby hospitals as a precautionary measure but no one was injured in the incident, Baker Heights Fire Co. Assistant Chief Mike Hough said.

Care Haven employees began moving people outside at around 2:15 p.m. after propane in a hot water heater caught fire, Care Haven Administrator Drew LeRoy said.

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A maintenance worker quickly extinguished the fire but the building was evacuated because the smell of leaking propane began to fill the halls, Leroy said.

Staff members and rescue crews worked feverishly to find shade for the home's residents while firefighters made sure it was safe for them to return to their rooms.

With residents ranging in age from 50 and 100, and with some requiring oxygen to help them breathe, Hough said he wanted to avoid heat-related illnesses from temperatures that topped the 90-degree mark.

"This heat is hard on somebody like us, let alone somebody like them," Hough said.

Gurneys and wheelchairs were pushed into small shaded areas beside trees and bushes, while shade from three large trailers being used during a renovation of Care Haven were used to provide some relief from the heat.

"The first thing we did was call for the ambulances to get people out of the heat," Hough said.

While firefighters checked inside the building, nursing home employees and rescue crews were outside handing out cups of water and checking on the medical conditions of the residents.

Some residents were picked up by family members who rushed over to the home as news of the evacuation spread.

"My dad heard about it on the police scanner and I came right over to get my mother," Paula Rideoutt said.

Several residents were placed in air-conditioned ambulances and taken to the nearby Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Martinsburg City Hospital until firefighters made sure it was safe for them to return to the Care Haven building, Hough said.

Residents were returned to the home around 3:15 p.m.

Hough praised the speed of the evacuation by Care Haven employees and said there was only one person still inside the building when fire crews arrived at the scene.

"Thank God everyone's all right. This is what we have the (emergency) drills for," LeRoy said.

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