ARLEY - Residents from Pine Place assisted living facility in Arley were evacuated to Meek High School Thursday morning, Oct 24, after heavy smoke was reported at the assisted living facility.
Firefighters and other emergency responders parked along the roadside on Hickory Lane in front of Pine Place, after it was reported that smoke had filled the facility.
“When I got there, the building was full of smoke,” pointed out Arley Fire Chief James Rickett. “All the residents were sitting in the living room, so my first thing was to get them all out.
“We just had to get them out of there,” Rickett added. “We didn’t want them anywhere around the building, and it catch on fire.”
Fire officials contacted Marla Murrah, principal at Meek High School, and arrangements were made for the school to send a large bus to the assisting living facility to pick up the 11 residents and two staff members who were being evacuated, officials on the scene said.
Emergency responders assisted the residents, some of whom were in wheelchairs or had walkers, onto the bus. They were transported to a classroom at the Meek school, where they were monitored by emergency responders and were provided water by MHS students, Rickett pointed out.
Firefighters had to use exhaust fans to draw smoke from the Pine Place facility. No fire was reported, but firemen did confirm that a fan motor from a heating unit overheated and caused the smoke.
No structural damage was reported at Pine Place, according to Rickett.
Additional firefighters, Addison Rescue Squad, and two additional ambulances from Regional Paramedical Services were sent to the school to provide assistance to residence until they were given clearance about two hours later to return to Pine Place after the smoke had been cleared from the building, Rickett noted.
Bill Gouge, president of the Addison Rescue Squad, stayed with residents, other emergency responders and the assisted living residents during their short stay at Meek School.
When the school bus arrived at the school with assisted living residents, MHS students assisted emergency responders in unloading the residents, officials on the scene said.
“They did an awesome job,” Gouge stated.
The residents were provided comfortable seating at a work room area across from the high school office, Gouge stated.
“We checked vital signs and we had one patient with O2 (oxygen) that she had with her, and we made sure she had plenty. She never ran out,” Gouge pointed out. “RPS was on the scene with me to help me check out the patients.”
A bus, which was handicap accessible, provided by the city of Haleyville, was sent to pick up the residents and transport them from Meek school back to Pine Place, Rickett further stated.
Emergency responders did as they had done when the residents had loaded the school bus, and assisted them into the handicap accessible van, Gouge explained.
Assistance was also received on the scene from Helicon Fire Department, Winston County Sheriff’s Office, Arley Police and Winston County Emergency Management Office.
Winston EMA Director Jimmy Madison was very impressed with the great assistance received and how well all of the officials worked together.
Madison expressed his appreciation to Haleyville Mayor Ken Sunseri for the use of the handicap bus used to transport residents from Meek school back to Pine Place.
“The EMA appreciates the assistance with the city of Haleyville,” Madison pointed out.
In all, about seven fire trucks and a rescue truck responded from the different fire departments, Rickett said. “We had the road lined up,” Rickett pointed out. “We had about 14 firefighters there.
“We had a crowd, but it all worked out great,” Rickett added. “We had everything from high school kids to EMA director over there and everybody in between.
“Everybody worked together and did their jobs, and it worked fine,” Rickett said. “I am just glad it was not what we (first) thought it was. It could have been a lot worse.
“That’s the way Arley folks are. They take care of each other,” Rickett continued.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.