May 16, 2010

AUSTRALIA: Fire forces nursing home to evacuate 58 elderly residents

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SYDNEY, NSW / The Sydney Morning Herald / Breaking News / AAP / May 16, 2010

A firefighter has described it as his "worst nightmare" - having to fight a blaze and evacuate 58 elderly residents from a country Victorian nursing home in the dark on Sunday morning.

Four people were taken to Wodonga Hospital, on the Victoria-NSW border, with breathing problems due to smoke inhalation.

The fire broke out in an air-conditioning unit shortly after 5am (AEST) at the Osburn Lodge Nursing Home in Wodonga, on the Victorian side of the border.

The smoke was waist high, Wodonga Country Fire Authority firefighter Paul King said.

"Don't underestimate the task of evacuating 58 people that could not assist themselves or could not walk, were disoriented and did not know what was going on," he told AAP. "It was an enormous undertaking.
The firefight became secondary to focussing on getting people out once we became satisfied it was not spreading through other buildings."

Of the people hospitalised, two were residents of the nursing home and two were staff members whom Mr King praised for their role in evacuating residents.

"They did the right thing getting people out but I am not surprised some were hospitalised," he said. "They would have been running on adrenalin, which makes you breathe more."

Emergency services workers were fortunate they were able to relocate the residents to a bowling club across the road, Ambulance Victoria spokesman John Mullen said.

"Many of the residents already had breathing problems," he said.

The fire did not destroy any buildings and was not widespread.
The residents were due to be taken back to the nursing home from the bowling club on Sunday morning.

© 2010 AAP