Tragedy averted

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 29, 2006

To the Editor:

Tragedy was averted in Selma. Sunday morning at approximately 2:30 a.m. when a fire was reported to 911 in a resident’s room at the Epworth House, an assisted living facility located on Franklin Street.

911 immediately dispatched the Fire Department along with Police Department and Care Ambulance.

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When the first units arrived on the scene heavy smoke and fire were visible from a room on the third floor.

Several residents were already outside in near freezing temperatures when it was reported that the occupant of the room where the fire was visible was possibly trapped.

Rescue fire personnel immediately searched the room, finding the victim and extricating her to the outside for medical treatment.

Other firefighters extinguished the fire confining it to the single residence while other firefighters, along with police officers and Epworth House personnel, began searching all rooms and evacuating the three-story facility.

Care ambulance personnel treated the critically injured victim and transported her to the emergency room where she was later air lifted to a burn center in Birmingham. Other emergency medical personnel from Care Ambulance and Emergystat Ambulance Service checked each residence for injuries as they were evacuated from the building and placed them in ambulances for warmth.

Epworth House personnel checked and confirmed all 39 residents evacuated.

A decision was then made to transport the 38 victims to the Wal-Mart Super Center so they could be a little more comfortable, warmer and cared for. Keep in mind that these victims were evacuated from their residence in the middle of the night in near freezing temperatures and most of them in only their night clothes.

The victims were all accounted for and transported in ambulances, police cars, the Epworth van and even the fire chief’s car.

Once they arrived at Wal-Mart, the manager and store personnel opened their store graciously and arranged for seating, gave them warm blankets, drinks and even gave some victims socks for their feet.

EMS personnel, along with Wal-Mart personnel, stayed with the victims and continuously checked on their well being.

Some of the victims were picked up by family members but most remained for several hours until Epworth House made arraignments for the victims to be taken to the former Dunn’s Nursing Home, temporarily until the fire marshal cleared the facility for their return.

Twenty-five victims were again transported by ambulances and the Epworth van to the old nursing home until they could return to their residence.

There are way too many people that were involved to commend individually so I will just name them by groups: 911 dispatch, the Selma Fire Department, Selma Police Department, Care Ambulance, Emergystat Ambulance, Wal-Mart management and staff, Epworth House management and staff and Ellwood Community Church. All these groups worked together in a very professional and excellent manner and not only saved lives but prevented what could have surely become more of a tragedy. One final thing that I continually heard during the entire ordeal was that no one was looking for a pat on the back or a great big thank you but that they did what they did not because it was their job but because it is their community and community is like family and they believe in family. Again to everyone involved


Alan Dailey