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With room ablaze, Woodview patients rescued by staff

No one was hurt, but 60 residents of Unit 3 at The Woodview had to be evacuated early Saturday morning after a fire destroyed Room 315 and caused significant smoke damage to that section of the nursing home.

The fire, believed to have started in a closet from improperly discarded smoking material, resulted in more than $100,000 in damage, according to South Boston Fire Chief Steve Phillips.

 When the call came in at 2:49 a.m., Phillips said it was toned out as an actual fire at 103 Rose Hill Drive in South Boston and not as a fire alarm, so firefighters headed to the nursing home aware of what they might face when they arrived on the scene.

Assisting the dozen South Boston firefighters were nine firefighters from Halifax Volunteer Fire Department and four firefighters from Cluster Springs Volunteer Fire Department.

Because there was a possibility of having to evacuate all the patients at the nursing home, Ray Mason was put in charge of getting additional rescue units to assist the two ambulances from South Boston Rescue Squad, Phillips said, noting ambulances responded from Turbeville Volunteer Fire Department, North Halifax Volunteer Fire Department, two transport units from Patient Transport and one from Mecklenburg Rescue Squad.

Fortunately, when firefighters arrived on the scene they discovered the staff at The Woodview had entered the room on fire and safely removed the two patients from that room which Phillips described as “a lifesaving event for those two people.”

“When we arrived on the scene, the room had fire involvement and Unit 3 was filled with a tremendous amount of smoke in the hallway on one side of the unit,” the fire chief said.

The sprinkler system had activated in Room 315 extinguishing some of the fire, but firefighters brought in a hose line and finished extinguishing the blaze that was contained to Room 315 with Room 317 suffering smoke damage.

Fire doors had properly activated primarily containing the smoke to that unit.

“There was a tremendous amount of smoke in the hallway initially when we got there, and our priority was to evacuate the 41 people in the immediate impacted section, Phillips said, noting those patients were moved to the front of the facility in Unit 1.

Later 19 additional patients were moved from another section of Unit 3, he said.

All 60 patients were evaluated and re-evaluated to make sure no one had suffered smoke inhalation or were experiencing other difficulties.

“It was a lot of stuff all going on at one time,” Phillips said commending everyone involved for their efforts.

South Boston Police Investigator Randy Redd was called to the scene to assist firefighters in determining the cause of the fire.

The fire is believed to have started in a closet attached to the wall in Unit 315, Phillips said.

Olivia Epps, communications manager for Halifax Regional Health System, which operates The Woodview, said the staff is working closely with fire officials in their investigation and believe it was an “accidental fire” started from “possibly concealed smoking materials in a closet which is against regulations.”

The Woodview has a no smoking policy inside the facility or anywhere on the campus, according to Epps.

Once firefighters extinguished the blaze, they remained on the scene until 5:19 a.m. to help with clean up, Phillips said.

Also providing valuable assistance, according to the fire chief, were about a dozen people from the American Red Cross and the Halifax County Department of Social Services who checked on patients and were prepared to help with the evacuation of all patients from the nursing home had that become necessary.

Halifax County School System Maintenance and Operations Director Larry Roller and Middle School Principal Faye Bruce were called to turn the heat on in the middle school and assist with possibly opening the school as a shelter had that become necessary.

Halifax County Emergency Services Deputy Coordinator Chad Loftis also responded along with Halifax Regional Hospital personnel who prepared the hospital’s Leggett Auditorium “just in case we needed to move patients to the hospital,” Phillips said.

All staff at The Woodview also were asked to come into work shortly after the fire to assist in the event of a possible evacuation.

“Our main concern was when we did evacuate all of Unit 3 that the people would be in a safe place and to get them moved as safely and as quickly as possible,” Phillips added.

While firefighters were extinguishing the blaze, nursing home staff were meeting to determine how quickly they could get the residents back into their rooms and return to a normal routine, according to Phillips.

“The staff there has gone through training on what to do in case of a fire and how to evacuate residents, and they did an excellent job in getting the people out of the fire room, so no one got hurt,” the chief added.

Epps concurred with Phillips saying, “The staff was really prompt. They responded appropriately when they realized smoke was coming from Room 315 and moved the residents away from 315 and the surrounding rooms. All the fire doors responded appropriately, and police and fire departments responded quickly.”

All the residents’ families were contacted by 6:30 a.m. Saturday, she added.

“No one had to be transported to the hospital, and we couldn’t be more grateful. Everyone was great,” Epps said in the aftermath of the blaze.

Water, fire and smoke damage was contained to Room 315 and tiles in the adjacent Room 317.

By Sunday, Room 317 had completely been repaired and repainted, Epps said, with the residents moving back into the room Saturday evening.

“It will take some time to get Room 315 repaired since it sustained a significant amount of damage,” Epps said.

However, until then the two occupants of that room have been relocated to other rooms in the facility, and no one has had to leave, she added.

“As of Saturday night, everyone had moved back into their rooms, and all the Unit 3 rooms had been cleaned and the smell of smoke was virtually non-existant. Things were getting back to normal,” Epps said.

Epps and Chief Phillips commended first responders at The Woodview for doing “a really great job.”

“It’s a lot of praise to be given out for all of the agencies involved,” Phillips said, “but especially to The Woodview staff. They deserve a lot of credit for their quick response. 

“No one was hurt, no residents had to go to the hospital, and that is the best part of all of it. It was a tremendous effort to come out of that situation with no one hurt. It was a blessing, and everyone worked together,” he concluded.