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Fire forces evacuations at Maplewood Gardens

Wed., May 5, 2010, 8:27 a.m.

Fire damaged an upper-story apartment at Maplewood Gardens retirement community in northeast Spokane late Tuesday, causing evacuation of one floor and parts of two others.

All of the residents were going back to rooms today, and no one was injured seriously, said administrator Karen Burgerson.

Firefighters from Ladder 1 downtown were among the first firefighters on the scene to the 10:30 p.m. call and went up a stairwell and rescued a woman inside the burning fourth floor apartment at 1100 N. Superior St., said Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer.

They carried her to safety and treated her for smoke inhalation.

Firefighters brought the fire under control quickly, and then set up a system for caring for residents who may have breathed smoke or had medical conditions aggravated during the emergency, Schaeffer said.

A triage center was set up with eight paramedics in a common area of the retirement center to evaluate and treat residents. About 15 residents were evaluated and monitored, but most never left the retirement center, he said.

Paramedics used monitors and other equipment to care for the evacuees, he said.

The woman in the unit that caught fire and a second resident were transported for hospital care. The woman from the burning apartment was to be released from Sacred Heart Medical Center about 1:30 a.m., Schaeffer said.

Burgerson said the second resident, who helped get her neighbors out of their apartments when the fire broke out, was also treated and released from the hospital. She was treated for inhaling smoke. “Everybody’s OK,” she said this morning.

During the incident, family members of residents began arriving at the retirement center as firefighters worked to care for residents. They were able to confirm with firefighters on their relatives’ statuses through a reunification list of residents who were being monitored. Others went back to their rooms, Schaeffer said.

Sprinklers inside the burning apartment kept the fire in check long enough for firefighters to rescue the occupant and extinguish it.

Two staff members on duty had evacuated nearly all the fourth floor by the time firefighters arrived, Schaeffer said. Firefighters then checked rooms to make sure everyone was OK.

“The firefighters did a good job of locating her quickly and getting her out,” he said referencing the woman who lived in the apartment on fire. “It could have been a complete disaster.”

Burgerson also credited her staff members with acting quickly. She said the American Red Cross and off-duty staff members also arrived to care for residents, who are a mix of independent and assisted living seniors.

A Spokane Transit Authority bus brought to the scene held residents and kept them warm, Burgerson said.

The facility currently has about 200 residents. The 1979 Maplewood Gardens building is adjacent to the Academy senior living facility in the historic Holy Names Academy building.

The cause of the fire was under investigation but may have been electrical or accidental, Schaeffer said. The occupant of the unit was reported to be a non-smoker.

Burgerson said she and her staff were up until 4 a.m. cleaning up water damage so they could get residents back in affected units. In addition to the unit that had the fire, two others units were vacated temporarily.

“It was a great response by Spokane and my staff,” she said.

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