Farmington, MO Nursing Home Blaze Kills 26, Apr 1979


Farmington, Mo. (AP) -- At least 26 persons were killed today in a fire at a nursing home in this southeast Missouri community, said Fire Chief BOB ODER.
ODER said 37 patients and one attendant were in the Straughan's Wayside Inn retirement home. He said 13 bodies were removed from the structure and 13 others were known to be inside.
Bodies were found in the hallways and at the doors of the red granite, single-story structure.
Chief Deputy Sheriff GENE ARCHER said the roof of the building collapsed after the early morning fire broke out, trapping the patients inside.
ODER said the fire apparently erupted in the kitchen area at the rear of the home and the building was engulfed in flames by the time firefighters arrived.
Ten fire districts were forced to run hoses almost one mile into downtown Farmington.
"It's a total loss," a firefighter at the Farmington Fire Department said of the Wayside Inn home, where the fire broke out about 5 a.m.

Indiana Gazette Pennsylvania 1979-04-02



Farmington, Mo. (AP) -- Some of the 25 residents who died in a boarding home fire Monday could have been saved if there had been enough staff members to lead them to safety, authorities said.
The one woman who was on duty was asleep when the fire started and was finally pulled from the building by two elderly residents after she became trapped trying to awaken everyone.
The early morning blaze swept through the one-story granite building of the Straughan Wayside Inn in minutes. Farmington Fire Chief BOB ODER said Monday his department was at the scene within three minutes after an alarm was received, but it was too late to rescue most residents.
DAVE NELSON, a firefighter patroling the rubble this morning to keep sightseers away until the investigation is completed, was one of the first firemen on the scene Monday. He said one of the home's residents fell halfway out a door he opened to get into the burning building Monday. The resident was apparently one of the 25 who died.
"It makes you want to just give it all up," he said.
Bodies were removed late Monday from the city's armory, which had been converted into a makeshift morgue. The building was used today as a polling place for the city election.
State Rep. STEVE VOSSMEYER, chairman of the House Governmental Review Committee, said his panel might investigate the the blaze. "We're just trying to piece things together now," said VOSSMEYER,
adding that some residents of the home apparently were under medication when the fire broke out.
"We want to find out how much the dosages were. And we'll check into the placement of the patients," he said.
St. Francois County Coroner TED BOYER said smoke inhalation was the cause of deaths of the first 11 persons pulled from the building's flaming shell. Bodies recovered later were severely burned and were found in or near the residents' beds, he said.
The staff member on duty overnight, DOROTHY EAST, 58, was hospitalized in satisfactory condition late Monday at Mineral Area Hospital in Farmington. Hospital administrator C. J. LaROSE said she was not suffering from direct injuries from the fire, but was in shock.
"She knew some people she knew around her were dying in the fire," LaROSE said.
MRS. EAST told authorities from her hospital bed that she was awakened by the sound of a smoke alarm, one of several that had been installed by the home's owners. A separate fire alarm system and fire extinguishers also were present.
She went up and down a smoke-filled corridor, trying to awaken residents, BOYER said, "It was just chaos."
One resident, 74-year-old RALPH STEINMETZ, said he and another resident pulled MRS. EAST to safety through a window after she was trapped.
In all, 13 persons escaped from the burning building and were taken to area hospitals and a nursing home. Condition reports were not available late Monday.
LARRY LINNEMEYER, an investigator for the state Fire Marshal's office, said it may take several days to determine how the fire started. He said it appeared that it began in an attic area above the kitchen, in the rear of the building, possibly from an electrical short circuit. Lightning could not be ruled out as a cause, he said.
The tragedy was the worst of its kind in Missouri since a 1957 fire at a Warrenton nursing home claimed 72 lives. That fire spurred legislative action to set up fire and safety regulations for nursing homes and state institutions.

Atchison Daily Globe Kansas 1979-04-03