MANCHESTER — One person was taken to a hospital with injuries from a fall after a kitchen fire broke out Friday night at Mt. Carmel Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.
District Fire Chief Michael Gamache, the incident commander, said three dozen firefighters responded to the fire at 235 Myrtle St. about 10 p.m. and found the kitchen filled with heavy smoke.
Gamache had to decide quickly whether to evacuate the facility’s approximately 100 residents, many of whom are bedridden or dependent on medical equipment. He said the quick work of the fire crews to extinguish the flames and ventilate the area meant that residents could shelter in place instead.
Still, Gamache said, “It was a pretty dramatic 10 to 15 minutes.”
The fire began as a grease fire on top of the stove, he said, and aerosol cans in the kitchen were exploding as firefighters worked. He said a fire suppression system failed, so there was no automatic fire alarm, “which delayed our response.”
“I’ve got to say, if it wasn’t for the professionalism of the crew that we had on last night, it would have been a much different story,” he said.
Firefighters managed to keep the smoke from entering residential areas of the nursing home, but Gamache said they were ready if that were to happen. “We would have done everything in our training and our power to make sure people’s loved ones were safe,” he said.
Gamache said ambulances from as far away as Hampton Falls were en route in case an evacuation was necessary. And he said even after the fire was extinguished, crews stayed at the scene, checking to make sure that there was no danger from carbon monoxide.
And first responders worked with nursing supervisors at the nursing home to make sure the residents’ physical, emotional and mental health needs were being met, Gamache said. He said one resident suffered a fall, apparently when he reacted to the fire alarm. The man was taken to Elliot Hospital for treatment, but was able to return to the home.
The nursing home’s kitchen will be out of service “for an extended period of time,” Gamache said. The city’s health department was called in to work with the nursing home staff to restore operations, he said.
The fire department’s investigation into the fire is still ongoing.
Gamache is a veteran of the city fire department. “I can tell you, I’ve seen it all,” he said.
But the way his crews responded to Friday night’s nursing home fire, he said, “It just made me proud to be one of them. They did a heck of a response.”