March 19, 1996 in Nation/World

Spark From Outlet Starts Blaze Fatal To 8 At Rest Home

Associated Press

A fire blamed on sparks from an electrical outlet with a missing faceplate killed eight men at a rest home, including an 85-year-old whose bed had been pushed up against the socket.

“I heard him say, ‘Fire!”’ said Otis Smith, whose roommate, Lonnie Carter, died after his bed erupted in flames. “I said, ‘Fire!’ and got out of there.”

The blaze broke out Sunday night at the Scotch Meadow Rest Home for the sick and elderly. Thick, acrid smoke quickly filled the men’s wing of the 60-bed home.

“I was trying to get out, and I looked back and it was white, like fog,” said Garfield Tredwell, 74, a former firefighter.

Two fire doors that swung shut when the alarm sounded kept the flames and most of the smoke from spreading to the rest of the one-story, cross-shaped building. Most of the residents were evacuated swiftly.

Smith, 75, said he grabbed his walker and hobbled away from the flames. “I didn’t know I could walk that fast,” he said. He said he saw Carter trying to crawl from their room but couldn’t help him.

Carter and another victim were burned; the rest of the victims died of smoke inhalation, Sheriff Wayne Bryant said.

The fire apparently started in an outlet that did not have a cover, or faceplate, Bryant said. A short circuit inside the outlet threw a spark onto the covers of Carter’s bed, which had been pushed up to the outlet, said William L. Warren, an engineer with the state Division of Facility Services.

An uncovered outlet is a minor violation of the state building code. The Division of Facility Services, which licenses rest homes, sent inspectors to gather information about the fire and the staff’s response.

The home had passed a local fire inspection in January and a state inspection Feb. 21. It had no sprinkler system; none was required when it was built in the 1960s, said Robert Harvell, Scotland County director of inspections.

Bryant said there were 57 patients at the home, 19 in the men’s wing, when the fire began about 10:20 p.m. Six survivors were taken to another home because they needed regular medical care, several went home with relatives, and the rest went to a motel.

© Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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