UTICA — For the second time in less than three weeks, the Utica Care Center at 233 N. Main St. was evacuated late Wednesday evening after firefighters were called due to an odor of smoke in one of the resident’s rooms.
According to Utica Fire Capt. Brooks Schmidlin, unlike the June 21 evacuation of the nursing home, which was done to keep residents safe while firefighters extinguished a small blaze in the building’s attic, Wednesday’s evacuation was purely precautionary as no fire was found.
“The staff called in smoke in the building,” Schmidlin said. “It was evacuated and we had it empty in five minutes this time.”
When the Utica Fire Department and EMS were dispatched shortly after 8:30 p.m., UFD auxiliary members assisted staff members and neighbors with the evacuation of the 27 residents, many of whom are not able to walk on their own.
“We brought out everybody with wheelchairs and walkers,” said auxiliary member Christy Myers. “We stayed and watched to make sure everybody was where they were supposed to be. They were pretty calm.”
Patients were moved to a parking lot north of the building while almost 40 firefighters responded to the scene.
Schmidlin said residents were kept outside for about 30 minutes while firefighters checked for fire throughout the building.
“We swept the whole building, checked all the residents’ rooms and checked all the lights,” Schmidlin said. “We checked everything in the attic and used a thermal imager inside and out. We walked the perimeter and the roof and checked all the air conditioning units.”
Firefighters paid attention to the HVAC system in the attic, where a small fire June 21 began in a fan motor. Schmidlin said the odor was traced back to a television in one of the resident’s rooms. The appliance was unplugged, which alleviated the problem.
Schmidlin said three mutual aid departments were called immediately because of the level of life threat in any nursing home fire. The Homer, Bladensburg and Newton Township fire departments responded. Eleven trucks were on the scene.
“I made it a working fire assignment because of the nature of the call,” Schmidlin explained.
While firefighters investigated the source of the smoke smell, crews initiated a precautionary firefighting plan.
“We hooked the hydrant and put water to the truck as a precaution,” Schmidlin said. “We pulled one attack line to the front door and we manned that line at all times. We also supplied the sprinkler system from Homer’s engine.”
Schmidlin declared the situation contained at 9:25 p.m. after a search inside and out revealed no fire.