Crab Apple Village residents had to spend about 15 to 20 minutes outside in the triple-digit heat on Monday evening after a small fire smoldered in the attic above the nurses station in the front part of the facility.
None of the nearly 40 residents was injured or treated during or after the incident that was first called in to the St. Clair Fire Protection District at 5:39 p.m.
A second alarm was sounded a short time later because of the type of facility firefighters were dealing with as well as because of the extreme heat.
The address of the nursing home is 214 Hartman Place along Highway 30 in Parkway Village just east of St. Clair.
After fire officials quickly extinguished the small fire and checked the surrounding areas of the facility, clearance was given for the residents to return inside. They spent a few hours together in the back rooms of the building separated from the front by several fire doors.
Electricity, including air conditioning, was working in that part of the building at all times.
All residents returned to their own rooms throughout the nursing home by 10 p.m., St. Clair Interim Fire Chief Mike Kelley told The Missourian on Tuesday morning. Power was restored to all parts of the building except the affected front area by about 9 p.m.
Kelley said the fire was ruled accidental and that it probably was electrical in nature. An individual from the state fire marshal’s office arrived at about 7 p.m. to help investigate.
“We’re 99.9 percent sure it’s electrical, but we just can’t say that yet for sure,” Kelley said. “The area above the nurses station light was smoldering when crews first arrived. It could have been smoldering for hours. No one actually saw any flames.”
Personnel from Williams Electric also were on the scene as were members of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and the Missouri Highway Patrol.
The insulation above the nurses office, a 2-by-4 holding the light fixture in place and the light fixture and ceiling fan were the only items destroyed.
Kelley said damage was limited to the nurses station, the front lobby and a nearby hallway. The lobby and hallway were still usable, however.
“There was not a lot of smoke in those areas,” he said. “And we didn’t have to use a lot of water.”
The fire was not bad enough to activate the building’s sprinkler system, Crab Apple Village Administrator Jackie Hartman told The Missourian at the scene on Monday evening.
“The evacuation was nothing less than perfect,” Hartman said. “It went like clockwork. Everybody is fine.”
Hartman said about 30 residents were evacuated. Those who were not evacuated remained in their rooms in the back of the building, and soon were joined there by the others when they were allowed to return inside.
Those who did not get to eat dinner were served hamburgers from McDonald’s.
Hartman said she kept checking on the residents at regular intervals to make sure everyone remained fine and safe.
The outside temperature at the time of the fire call was 104 degrees according to the Farmers & Merchants Bank thermometer on Plaza Drive in St. Clair.
Hartman said that Jennifer Glover, the director of nursing at Crab Apple Village, saw and smelled the smoke near the ceiling fan and light in the nurses station located across the front lobby from the main entrance doors.
“It smelled like burned marshmallows,” Hartman said.
When the first firefighters arrived, a small amount of smoke could be seen coming out of a vent outside the building. Crews were sent to check the air-conditioning units on the roof to make sure they were not the cause.
Firefighters from several departments, including Union, Sullivan and Pacific, responded to assist St. Clair personnel at the scene. Several ambulances from around the area also responded in case residents had to be transported elsewhere.
Reports that some residents had to be transported by a bus to a cooling center off the property were erroneous.
“The residents never had to leave the complex,” Kelley said. “We had ambulances there just in case.”
The interim chief said up to 45 firefighters were on the scene, including 20 to 25 from St. Clair alone. The last crew left at about 10 p.m.
Earlier in the day, Hartman said firefighters had conducted a quick walk-through inspection of the building. She also said she believed the air conditioning in the nurses station was not working properly earlier in the day.
Contractor Jay Rice, who built the facility, said he thought the building measured about 30,000 square feet.