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Woodview fire forces evacuation

South Boston NewsSouth Boston News
Room 315 at The Woodview, where the fire started, apparently from smoking materials stored in a closet / January 25, 2014
Residents and staff of The Woodview awoke in the early morning hours Saturday to a fire in the nursing home’s unit 3, prompting the evacuation of 60 persons to another part of the building. No one was injured in the blaze, which was quickly brought under control by the building’s sprinkler system.

The blaze started in room 315, apparently the result of what hospital officials described as “smoking materials” catching fire inside a closet. Damage from the flames was limited to the room itself, but the black smoke that billowed out filled the hallway of unit 3, also known as the Butterfly Path, and set off a furious rush to get residents to safety.

“The staff at The Woodview responded very promptly and appropriately when they realized there was smoke and took all precautions to make sure the residents were moved to safety immediately,” said Olivia Epps, communications manager for Halifax Regional Health System, which operates The Woodview.

Epps said the fire alarm was toned at the 911 center at 2:47 a.m. Saturday and firefighters, EMS personnel and police quickly rushed on the scene to contain the fire and join staff in moving residents to safety.

The evacuation effort focused on 41 persons living in the section of unit 3 where the smoke had spread. Another 19 residents on the hallway were separated from the smoke by automatic fire doors that slammed shut when the alarm went off. They were deemed safe from the fumes and did not have to be not moved immediately, said South Boston Fire Chief Steve Phillips.

Initially residents were brought to the front part of the building. Later Saturday morning, all 60 residents of the Butterfly Path were taken to the cafeteria where, according to Woodview director Connie Zamora, “they seem to be doing just fine.”

Phillips said the fire was “definitely an accident.” He did not elaborate on the materials inside the closet that appear to have set off the fire but Epps said they weren’t supposed to be there.

“Based on what fire investigators are telling us, it could [have been] caused by concealed smoking materials which are against Woodview policy,” Epps said.

Zamora declined to say if any action would be taken against whoever may have stored the materials in the closest. The rooms on unit 3 that were affected by the fire are double occupancy.

Phillips, echoing Epps, said the immediate concern for emergency personnel when they arrived at the scene was the safety of The Woodview’s residents, especially those living on unit 3.

“Our main focus when we got here was getting those people out of there at unit 3 … and into an area of the building on the other side of the fire doors.”

He praised the response of The Woodview staff, and HRHS officials said they were greatly thankful for the work of emergency personnel in dealing with the fire.

“We totally appreciate so much the support of our community folks, the fire, the rescue, the police [responders] … They were very professional and very prompt and I can’t say enough good things about them,” said Zamora.

In the aftermath of the blaze, The Woodview moved quickly to bring in extra cleaning staff and an outside cleaning firm to get to work on ridding the building off its smoky smell. Construction crews also arrived to clean out and repair the two rooms most damaged by the fire — room 315, where it started, and the room next door where some of the worst smoke damage occurred. That room was in the process of being repainted and its ceiling tiles replaced, with a goal of allowing its two residents to return by the afternoon.

The fire-ravaged room will take more time to repair, said Zamora.

All told, there were four residents in the two rooms most damaged. The residents in the fire-damaged room will be relocated to two empty beds at The Woodview so that no one is displaced from the building by the fire.

During the evacuation and its aftermath, none of the residents needed to be taken outside the building, and there were no transfers to the hospital. Zamora said The Woodview’s medical director and attending physician was on hand, and reported that all the residents were doing well.

All the families of residents had been contacted by 6:30 a.m. to let them know what had happened and that all of the residents were safe, said Epps.

This story will be updated.

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Just give them an ashtray for crying out loud!

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