Archive for Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Residents returning to nursing center

Laundry room fire forced evacuation

July 19, 2006

Tonganoxie Nursing Center is back in business, following a recent fire that forced residents to move.

The center was home to 70 people on July 1, when a fire broke out in a dryer in the laundry room. All 71 residents were evacuated from the building -- and then moved to other quarters.

But last Thursday, 12 days after the fire, the residents began returning to Tonganoxie.

About 50 residents had been taken to the former county infirmary in Leavenworth. And the Tonganoxie center's staff also set up shop at the former infirmary, which, ironically, the county had closed shortly before the fire.

And while nursing center residents are glad to be back in Tonganoxie, they handled their time away well, according to Kim Smith, the center's executive director.

"They did really well," she said. "And everybody stayed upbeat. ... When they came back in the front door, big old smiles came over their faces. We're back home."

A few residents still have not moved back in.

"We have one hallway that we're still doing repair work on, and that should be finalized soon so the residents in another home should be able to come back," Smith said.

She said repair work in the kitchen and dining room is complete. Fire officials estimated the blaze caused $100,000 in damage.

On Thursday, Leavenworth firefighters helped load nursing home residents into vans for the trip to Tonganoxie, where three local firefighters were on hand to help residents.

"We assisted in unloading when they brought them down, and we helped them unload some of the equipment," said Tonganoxie fire Capt. John Callaghan. "They were showing up, three, four, five at a time. It was right at lunch time, so a lot of them went to the dining room."

Smith said she was grateful for the work of firefighters -- when they responded to the July 1 blaze, and for the help they've provided since.

"The firefighters and the Red Cross and the police department, the council on aging and the volunteers in the community were absolutely wonderful," Smith said. And she, like Callaghan, is thankful the fire wasn't more severe than it was.

"It's probably our worst-case scenario," Callaghan said of fire breaking out at the nursing home. "That and the schools and the old downtown district. Those are three things that we know if we have something there, it's an issue.

"It's definitely something that we have plans for, and it all came together."

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