Authorities say a 64-year-old woman is dead after a fire sparked at a nursing home in Tucker on Tuesday.
Emergency crews in DeKalb County say the fire started in a room on the second floor at Meadowbrook Healthcare on Lawrenceville Highway sometime around 2:30 a.m. Seventy residents on the second floor were initially evacuated outside, then brought back indoors on the first floor.
"In an evacuation plan in a nursing home, the initial thought is to get them out. Once we got here, got enough staff of ours on scene, they evaluated and felt that the first floor was safe and we immediately moved all people to the first floor," said DeKalb Fire Chief Edward O'Brien.
Fire crews say the sprinkler system was able to put out most of the fire.
Dana Burdine was visiting her husband, who is a resident of the nursing home, when the fire broke out.
"I thought maybe it was a joke at first but when I saw everybody trying to get all the residents out and they were screaming and the hallway was full of smoke, I just panicked and tried to get everybody out that I could because most of these patients in here are bed-bound," said Burdine.
Burdine and her husband made it out of the building safely.
The fire was confined to one room but not before 64-year-old Laura Barrett died of smoke inhalation and two other residents were injured. Fire inspectors believe Barrett was smoking while on oxygen, which touched off the blaze.
"Our nursing staff rushed to our E-Hall unit where they discovered a resident in E-42, where the bed of one of our residents was on fire. Two of our nurse aides tried desperately to help the resident, and put out the fire with wet blankets," said Meadowbrook Healthcare Administrator John Clark.
State fire officials tell FOX 5 they found deficiencies in the home's alarm system when they inspected the facility last August, but those problems were corrected a month later.
Those visiting family members at the facility Tuesday afternoon said they were thankful firefighters and staffers rushed so many of the wheelchair-bound and bedridden residents to safety.
"Well I was shocked, I didn't really expect it because I've been coming here now for almost a year and I've never had the impression that the place was anything but safe," said Steve Check, the son of a resident.
State and county officials said that all of those internal systems were working this time around and county officials specifically praise the efforts of staff here at the facility in helping getting patients out into safety.