Hospital fire started in elevator motor authorities say

By Lane Luckie - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Emergency crews responded to a fire at Memorial Health System of East Texas, Wednesday night.

The entire on-duty shift of the Lufkin Fire Department was dispatched to the hospital after the fire was reported at 10:37 p.m. Hospital employees reported a fire on the 7th floor, which primarily serves as office space.

According Lufkin Fire Department battalion chief David Cross, the fire was caused by an elevator hoist motor, in the Kurth wing. Emergency responders quickly extinguished the fire using dry chemicals, however smoke from the fire had spread throughout the building.

"The main reason we were here so long, was to evacuate smoke," Cross said.

Industrial-power fans were brought in to draw smoke from multiple floors of the building.

Memorial Health System Community Relations spokesperson Yana Ogletree said none of the hospital's 138 patients were in any immediate danger from the smoke, because each room has a self-contained ventilation system. However, ambulances from the City of Lufkin and AmeriCare EMS were on-scene in the event that an evacuation did occur.

"The staff responded like they were trained to respond,"said Ogletree. "Fortunately thanks to their education and knowledge, we were able to keep the fire contained and patient safety wasn't jeopardized."

According to witnesses, many hospital visitors were asked to voluntarily evacuate for their safety. Missy Amoe had been at the hospital for most of the day, visiting her niece, Samantha Knight, who was in labor.

"Her Paw-paw's birthday was today, so she was trying to have it by midnight," said Amoe.

She said they noticed the lights flicker and soon began to smell smoke.

After 1 a.m. Thursday, visitors were allowed back inside the building. An electrician arrived to inspect and repair the elevator adjacent to the one disabled by the fire.

The electrical engineer from Tyler cleared the elevator for operation, but the damaged elevator is still inoperable. They are assessing the damage to determine cost and financial impact for hospital. The fire was traced to a motor in the elevator.

Ogletree said the hospital's four banks of elevators are inspected monthly and undergo weekly maintenance.

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