Sunday, March 22, 2009

Four disabled people die in fire at group home in upstate N.Y.

From The AP:

WELLS, N.Y. – Four of the nine residents of a state-run group home in the southern Adirondacks are dead after a fire gutted the home early March 21.

Gov. David Paterson says the fire started around 5:30 a.m. in the Riverview group home operated by the state Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities in Wells, a lakeside community 56 miles northwest of Albany.

Despite the efforts of several volunteer fire departments, four residents died — two at the site and two while being airlifted to Albany Medical Center.

The deceased include two men, age 52 and 32, and two women, age 43 and 60, officials said. State mental hygiene law protecting patient privacy prohibits release of the names, they said.

A 71-year-old resident was being treated at a Utica hospital, and the other four residents, age 46 to 64, were relocated to another home, officials said. The two staff members also survived.

When the fire alarm went off in the ranch-style home, the two staff members on duty overnight went to investigate and found the back section of the house fully engulfed in flames, said Nicole Weinstein, spokeswoman for the Office of Mental Retardation.

"The community has been incredible," Weinstein said. "There has been such an outpouring of help. They opened their doors to us, brought us food. It's all very heartfelt."

Fire companies from Wells, Lake Pleasant, Speculator and Hamilton County responded to the fire call, and local fire officials who live across the street from the group home ran over and helped evacuate residents, Weinstein said.

State and local fire investigators were on the scene March 21.