ST. CLAIR, MO. (KPLR) - Fire forced dozens of seniors out of their homes and into the triple digit heat early Monday night. It happened at the Crabapple Village assisted living center just outside of St. Clair, MO, on Hwy.30-47 near Highway K.
The fire started sometime before 6 o`clock. Nearly 4 hours passed before investigators gave the 'all clear' for the 42 residents, which included Alzheimer`s patients.
That meant residents could stay put after a very scary and very hot, ordeal.
'I lived in phoenix 40 years, so this doesn`t seem so bad to me,' said resident, Tim Williams.
'Somebody who lives behind called us and said there`s a fire at Crabapple. She knew that my wife`s sister was here. So we tore out,' said Ken Barnett.
He praised the Crabapple Village staff for their quick, thoughtful response. Workers began smelling smoke late in the afternoon but couldn`t see it. Eventually they did, in a light fixture above a nurse`s station, firefighters said.
Workers called the fire department and immediately moved the residents out of the building into the triple digit heat, as the residents were having supper, Williams said.
Workers found a good, shady, spot out back for the residents. Williams said they held up fine and ended up not being outside very long.
Firefighters quickly put out the small attic fire.
The complex has a main building and two wings.
The smoke reached very few residents` rooms, if any, said Captain Andy Branscum of the St. Clair Fire District.
So, residents were able to go back inside into one of the unaffected wings.
Michel Paille of Imperial, was visiting his mother, Nina, 90, an Alzheimer`s patient.
He said a worker who kept smelling something, stayed at the home more than an hour after her shift ended, until she could figure out what it was; finally she saw smoke coming from a ceiling light fixture.
'She ran all the way to the Alzheimer`s patients` arm of this place,' Paille said,. 'She told us to `get everybody together, get ready to run out. The fire department`s on their way.` I`ll tell you what, if she didn`t stay, who knows. It looks like the insulation caught on fire, within a half hour it was starting to get smoky in there.'
'It looks like, as long as we get the ok from the state fire marshal, there`s plenty of room to house everybody here so we won`t have to move anybody,' Captain Branscum said.
'If she wouldn`t have stayed, we would have been in trouble,' Paille said the of the worker he called a hero.
Williams said it certainly could have been a lot worse.
'Oh gosh yeah. They had that ladder truck down here. They extended it up over the roof, but they never did spray any water, so I don`t think they had any flames. I think it mostly smoke,' he said.
No final word on the cause, though firefighters believe it was an electrical fire, starting in that ceiling light fixture.