Nursing home residents to spend another night in Florence school gym

Damage to the Golden Living Center in the Town of Florence, Monday, June 16, 2014. (WLUK/Bill Miston)

TOWN OF FLORENCE – It’s a good thing school’s out for summer in the Town of Florence.

"We have 31 residents, right now, in the elementary school that evacuated and then 10 residents are with family members," said Jeanne Littel, an area vice president with Golden Living Center.

Some nursing home residents will bunk up for another night in the elementary school’s gym after a suspected lightning strike started a fire in Golden Living Center facility on Chapin Street Sunday afternoon.

[caption id="attachment_41399" align="alignleft" width="300"] Florence Elementary School is serving as a temporary shelter for some nursing home residents after being displaced by a fire Sunday, June 15, 2014. (WLUK/Bill Miston)[/caption]

Littel says fire doors limited the fire to a small eastern wing of the roughly 55-unit, one-story facility. She says rooms near the fire suffered severe water and smoke damage.

"Even the resident who was in the area where the lightning took place and she was a little shocked,” said Littel, “But now they're laughing about it."

As well as their current accommodations, according to Littel. But the use of the elementary school as a shelter is no laughing matter – it is part of the facility's disaster plan.

"Shelter was open within 15 minutes of the initial call," said Florence County Sheriff Jeff Rickaby.

Rickaby says as quickly as the fire was put out, residents had a place to stay.

"Red Cross brought in cots and mattresses and things like that for people to sleep on,” explained Rickaby Monday afternoon. “We brought lifts and such from the nursing home over to the shelter."

Golden Living Center officials and Red Cross leaders say the reason for the short turnaround is thanks, in great part, to the overwhelming amount of support from the Florence community.

"Florence and the surrounding communities have been amazing and actually helped us evacuate the patients – residents – to the elementary school and everyone is safe," said Littel.

Littel says the residents will not be able to return to the facility until Tuesday afternoon, at the earliest. There's no official damage estimate for the facility, yet, but Littel says insurance is covering the cleanup and repairs.