WEST CHESTER, Pa. (AP/WTXF) - A massive fire at a senior living community in West Chester injured 27 people and forced dozens more, many of whom were unable to walk, into the cold night air. Officials say they are still working to account for everyone after the fire.
The blaze was reported around 11 p.m. Thursday at Barclay Friends Senior Living Community.
The fire quickly spread to multiple buildings and flames could be seen shooting from the roofs and windows of the structures. Residents were forced to evacuate outside into the cold, with temperatures overnight hovering in the low 40s. SKYFOX video showed dozens of residents on the lawn or along the street, wrapped in blankets. Many of them had been pushed in wheelchairs or rolled on beds to safety.
"We're family oriented. We're their family when they're family is not around," said Tammy Young. She had the day off but heard through other employees that the place she's worked for over 21 years as a nursing assistant was burning.
"It hurts. It hurts just making sure that everybody's safe because we really care about our residents," she said.
Investigators say the building is too unsafe for crews to go inside and they still don't know if everyone made it out.
"First responders and others helped evacuate the people at the center. We’re still compiling a list with the owners of the facility and trying to get a solid fix on the people in the place," said Don Robinson with the ATF.
The fire was fast moving and eventually forced firefighters to pull out.
"To the extent that one of our firefighters went as far as he could he eventually realized his helmet was going to melt," said Robert Kagel, Director of Emergency Services.
27 people were treated at three area hospitals. At last report 20 were still getting care as of Friday evening.
During a late news conference, officials said they didn't know if sprinklers had gone off or if the building had fire walls. Right now, their main focus is on tracking down everyone who was inside. It’s a big concern for Young.
"It's hard because we do have some that are really hard to manage with dementia and things like that going on. You go to pull a resident out and you're rushing because you're scared, they're scared and they don't know what's going on," she said.
According to its website, Barclay Friends offers various levels of care including memory care, skilled nursing and post-acute rehab.
A cause of the fire remains under investigation, but high winds are believed to have had an impact on how quickly the fire spread.
Barclay Friends released a statement on Saturday celebrating the bravery and professionalism of first responders, but did not comment on the number or extent of the injuries suffered by the fire.
Families who have questions are encouraged to contact Faith Woodward at FWood@bf.kendal.org.