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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Search begins for cause of fire at retirement home

MARYVILLE, Tenn. – A fire that swept through a rural retirement home without sprinklers or access to a hydrant left three elderly residents dead and six hospitalized Wednesday.
The privately owned Home Away from Home was not required to have a sprinkler system under state rules. A former employee said there had been problems with residents smoking inside the home, but investigators were withholding comment about what started the blaze.
”Nothing is ruled out,” said Bob Pollard, a special agent with the state fire marshal’s office.
Fifteen residents, a caregiver and a guest were in the ranch-style, brick building when it caught fire late Tuesday.
Neighbor Jack Wilson said residents were wheeled down a narrow two-lane country road on stretchers to be loaded into ambulances that couldn’t drive all the way to the facility 15 miles south of Knoxville. A dozen ambulances jammed the road leading to the home.
”It was chaotic,” he said. ”I don’t think it should be here, and that proved it last night.”
With no fire hydrant available, firefighters fashioned a makeshift pool by dumping truckloads of water into a low spot on the ground and using that to supply the hoses. Temperatures in the mid-20s forced firefighters to put salt in the water to keep it from freezing.
Authorities identified two of the dead as residents Lucille Law, 87, and Molly Wright, 84. The third victim’s identity was not released. One of them was trapped in the building, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Marian O’Briant.
In all, 13 people were treated for smoke inhalation and burns, and one victim suffered a hip fracture. Six remained hospitalized, three in critical condition.
State law exempts older retirement homes from having sprinklers if they have not been renovated since 1994.
State licensing records list Home Away from Home’s administrator as Curtis Sorrells, who refused to talk to reporters Wednesday.

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