NANTICOKE — Flames forced about 50 seniors to flee from their living facility Tuesday morning in Luzerne County.
It was a scene repeated over and over again, about 50 times: the elderly, many frail, roused from their quiet beds in the middle of the night, and forced to leave their personal care home.
The fire at Nanticoke Villa on North Walnut Street, broke out a little after 2 a.m. Tuesday.
The fire chief tells us the fire was contained to a second floor apartment. There was smoke and water elsewhere, so the residents had to leave.
“(It’s) time consuming and a little frustrating(moving this many people, this quickly) but we’ve got to get it done,” said Nanticoke Fire Chief Rich Bohan.
Clearly, the residents couldn’t move fast. Plus, this was more than a matter of just heading for the door. Firefighters, ambulance workers, and villa employees had to make sure the residents left with their essentials, including medication.
From there, it was a short trip to Greater Nanticoke Area High School’s gymnasium. Some went by ambulance. Some went by school bus.
One of the things helping first responders is that this isn’t the first time they’ve had to clear out Nanticoke Villa.
A broken water pipe flooded Nanticoke Villa in June of 2013. Like this morning, residents were forced out of their homes, and taken to the high school to wait it out.
That June evening served as preparation for this evacuation.
“We kind of had the idea on how things are going to run, what we need to do, and what we need to provide for the residents here,” explained EMA official Steve Bekahich.
Once there, Villa workers, plus the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army made sure the residents were as comfortable as possible, until their fire damaged home was cleaned up.
Once the damage is cleaned up, a building inspector will have to make sure it is safe for residents to return.