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Fire At Jackson Meadows Retirement Home

By Natalie Potts
By npotts@wbbjtv.com

JACKSON, Tenn. - The Jackson Fire Department evacuated more than 100 senior residents from the Jackson Meadow Retirement home after a fire sparked in the building's attic area, Tuesday.

"We've had some false alarms but this one wasn't a false alarm, it was real," said resident Martha Tolbert. "I was in there doing some laundry and about that time the manager came up and said the place is on fire and I went out into the hall, I could see smoke coming from the ceiling."

Officials said it took firefighters at least two hours to get everyone out safely from the three story building. The residents were temporarily transported to the Civic Center in Downtown Jackson, until emergency officials could find an overnight solution. Madison County Emergency Management Director Marty Clements tells WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News, most of the senior citizens living inside of the home were able to get in touch with their family members to be picked up. At least 24 others are now staying in two separate Jackson hotels until further notice.

Fire officials said the blaze started in the attic area around 3:15, Tuesday. Workers at the assisted living center immediately transported everyone from each floor to the building's first floor living room area.
Residents reported extensive smoke and water damage on each floor, they said they are just thankful no one was seriously injured.

"I was eating peanut butter and then I smelled smoke," said resident Hazel Ward. "I went out and looked down the hall way and there was water everywhere on the floor. I'm just so proud I got out of there cause it's really bad."

Firefighters worked quickly to get the blaze under control. Officials said at least two people were taken to the hospital by ambulance where they checked out okay. Emergency responders said they were able to grab several oxygen tanks, medicine and some personal belongings for the residents to take with them. Clements told WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News crews are working around the clock to restore the building and repair the damage but at this time it is not known how long each senior will be displaced.

"We just pray we get it back quickly and none of them have any long term effects from this," said Marty Clements, Madison Co. EMA Director.

Some residents who use oxygen daily said they're nervous about breathing in the smoke.

"That's the reason I'm coughing... the light smoke it's still in my lungs," said Ward. "I've lived here 2 years and I have never seen nothing like this... I've never had to do anything like this before even when I was younger."

Emergency officials said they will return to the building Wednesday to get whatever the residents need. Officials said this incident shows the City's emergency plan really does work. Although firefighters said they know the fire started in the attic area, the cause remains under investigation. EMA officials said officials with Jackson Meadow have said they will take care of all costs including hotels and transportation.