Cresco FD responds to fire at Assisted Living
Fri, 09/14/2018 - 1:30pm admin
Nate Troy and Marcie Klomp
CRESCO - The Cresco Community Fire Department was paged to Cresco Assisted Living located at 1010 North Elm Street in Cresco at 10:18 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 4 to a report of smoke and fire in the roof area. There were no injuries to residents or emergency personnel.
Lightning struck the assisted living facility, which is attached to Evans Memorial Home, at 9.26 p.m. Administrator Diana Roberts, who has an apartment on-site, explained, “I heard it hit. It wasn’t a normal sound. It was like a bomb went off.” The lights flickered and came back on. She opened her door to assess damage and saw none.
A little later, one of the residents lost power to the electric recliner and alerted a nurse for help. The charge nurse glanced at the fire panel on her way to aid the resident. It was out. She called maintenance and helped the resident. By this time, smoke was evident.
Besides taking out the fire panel, the lightning strike took out the elevator.
The maintenanceman was on the phone with the fire department as he was knocking on Roberts’ door to apprise her of the situation.
According to Cresco Fire Chief Neal Stapelkamp, when the fire department arrived, heavy smoke was coming from the roof and attic on the southern portion of the building. Immediate evacuation of all residents was conducted by Cresco Fire, Evans Staff, Regional Health Ambulance Personnel and Cresco Police Department.
The Cresco Fire aerial truck was set to access the roof from the east side of the building and to ventilate the roof when needed. The second arriving engine was placed on the south with multiple hose lines stretched into the building to the third floor area.
Entry was made into one third-floor residence, at which time moderate smoke was encountered. The ceiling was removed, with a significant amount of fire located in the attic. A second entry team entered the attic from another location to ensure there would be no extension to the north. An aggressive offensive interior attack was made from these locations, resulting in near full extinguishment.
Significant amounts of blow insulation were removed from the attic area to ensure there would be no fire spread. There was heavy damage to the attic rafters and trusses in the southeast corner of the attic.
The last truck returned to the station at 2:28 a.m.
All 28 residents of Cresco Assisted Living were fine. Roberts was appreciative to everyone involved for taking care of the building and residents.
“I can’t thank the five fire departments, EMS, hospital, paramedics and police enough. They took care of the fire and more, while I took care of the stuff inside. EMT Brady Norman called for a school bus and the other local facilities to take residents.” As it turns out, some of those displaced were moved to Evans Memorial Home, New Hampton Assisted Living and home with relatives.
As of Monday, Sept. 10, seven were living in New Hampton, 10 were at Evans and 11 were at private homes.
Roberts said it will be several weeks before residents are allowed back in their homes. Some of the trusses have to be replaced and have a two-week waiting period. In addition, it will take some time to get the elevator fixed.
The fire could have been much worse, and the administrator gave several reasons the residents and facility were saved.
First, when the building was constructed in 2004 safety regulations were pretty stringent. One of the workers who helped with the building noted, at the time he thought it was overkill. But he saw first-hand why the regulations are in place.
The space between the assisted living and nursing home had a very good fire wall, which prevented the flames from spreading and kept them contained to the third floor room.
Second, Roberts said the facility is very committed to practicing emergency preparedness. “We have trainings and review policies and procedures. After this experience, we will make a few minor tweaks to the procedures, but they worked. It comes down to emergency preparedness.”
The third reason this fire did not turn into a tragedy was her staff, emergency personnel, organizations and community people.
“Staff and others stepped forward without being asked. When I asked an individual to do a task, they did it quickly.
“It was phenomenal. This community . . . I’m going to miss this community.” [After being administrator at Evans Memorial Home and Cresco Assisted Living for nearly four-and-a-half years, Roberts resigned in July to take a job at a facility currently being built in Marion, Iowa. She will be closer to her home and family. She was planning to stay until the beginning of October, but may stay later if her help is needed to continue with the clean-up and reconstruction.]
She added, “Hopefully I can find a staff half as great as this one!”
The Cresco Fire Department was assisted by the Protivin, Ridgeway, Lime Springs and Decorah Fire Departments, Cresco Police Department, Regional Health Services of Howard County Ambulance, Howard County Emergency Management, Howard County Dispatchers and the Howard-Winneshiek School Transportation Department.