WILLARD, Ohio (WJW) – The Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office determined that lighting was the likely cause of a fire that forced more than 60 residents to be evacuated from the Blossom Healthcare Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center late Thursday.
Willard Fire Chief Joe Reiderman says the first calls came in just before 6 p.m. as a fire odor investigation.
When firefighters arrived, they found a working fire in one wing of the expansive facility.
“The staff really did a fine job evacuating the patients. They evacuated everyone to the non-affected area. We set up an evac center across the road at the (First United Methodist),” said Reiderman.
Help was summoned from numerous area fire departments, but it was the community’s response that is credited with helping comfort and transport the residents.
William Robinson, who lives just a few doors away from the nursing home, says he was eating supper with his family when the emergency vehicles caught their attention.
He went outside to investigate and immediately went back to his home where his wife, a hospice nurse with clients at the nursing home, instinctivly knew they had to do whatever they could to help.
“The fire department asked for help, anybody we could need, so, I mean, the community helped really quick. They helped get the patients from the nursing facility across the street to the Methodist Church,” said Robinson.
“We had all the residents in the gymnasium there and the pastor went around with an accordion and played it to entertain the residents,” said Josh Dubler, the Vice President of Operations for the nursing home. “We had all kinds of people here. Our nurse practitioner from the community, she was in assessing all of the residents, so everybody came together.”
Paul Bersten, CEO of the nursing home’s parent company, told FOX 8 that skilled care facilities have a close-knit network and within a very short time they were communicating with other homes in the region to help house the displaced residents.
In Willard, the local school district provided buses to transport residents to other nursing homes willing to take them in.
“All the help from different groups. From the schools, from, of course, the fire department and just the neighbors and citizens and just the response was amazing,” said Bersten.
Bersten says the company drills for various incidents, including one like the Thursday fire, so they were well prepared.
The fire department says two residents were transported from the temporary staging area to a hospital for precautionary measures and one firefighter was treated for a minor injury on the scene, but there were no reports of any serious injuries.
“The whole community responded. There was neighbors, the church, our employees that were off-duty came in right away to help with this, so it was fantastic,” said Dubler.