Two hurt in boiler explosion; nursing home evacuated
By Gordon Dritschilo
sTAFF wRITER | February 20,2013
Albert J. Marro / Staff PhotoS
Above, staff at Rutland Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center evacuate patients to a waiting bus after a furnace malfunction Tuesday afternoon. At left, city firefighters Kyle Goodrich and Mike Robillard place a smoke extractor near the center’s furnace area to clear out excess heat caused by a blowback.
A Rutland nursing home was evacuated Tuesday after a boiler fire injured two maintenance workers and left the Nichols Street facility without heat.
Eighty-nine residents at Rutland Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center were evacuated to locations including Rutland Regional Medical Center, The Pines, Mountain View Center, Rutland Manor, Springfield Health and Rehabilitation Center in Springfield and Claremont Center in Claremont, N.H., according to center spokeswoman Jeanne Moore.
Two residents went home with their families, according to Moore, and all families had been notified of the move by late Tuesday afternoon.
Brad LaFaso, deputy chief of operations for the Rutland City Fire Department, said the center had been having trouble with its heating system and that contractors from Dependable Heating were working on it when the fire broke out.
“We call it a furnace blowback, but the boiler did catch on fire and explode,” LaFaso said. “I don’t know the extent of the injuries, but they took superheated gas into their lungs. They’re going to be in the hospital for quite some time.”
LaFaso said he did not have the names of the injured workers. A call to Dependable Heating in Castleton was not immediately returned Tuesday afternoon.
LaFaso also said he did not know the cause of the blowback.
The call came in shortly after 12:30 p.m. while crews from the Rutland City Fire Department were still at a fire on Elm Street. As of mid-afternoon, temperatures were still comfortable and the center and LaFaso said there was no immediate threat to the rest of the building.
“Most of the floors are separated by cement,” he said. “In the basement area, we are exhausting the heat out of that area, as well as the carbon monoxide and fumes.”
However, LaFaso said there was no indication that heat would be restored that day, and that temporary heating equipment would complicate an evacuation and interfere with safety measures like fire doors — hence the decision to evacuate.
“There’s obviously consideration and hazards of moving patients on this magnitude,” he said. “Some are wheelchair-bound. Some are bedridden. It’s going to be a labor-intensive job. There are always risks involved in that. There are also risks in keeping them in a building with no heat and minimal fire coverage.”
Rutland Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center is owned by Genesis HealthCare, as is the nearby Rutland Manor and the Claremont Center. Administrator Chad Dingman said the facility had about 160 staff.
“At this point, we’re working with the management response team to put the best plan in place for what we have going on,” Dingman said shortly after 3 p.m. “We’re trying to relocate a large number of people with varying levels of medical conditions without compromising any kind of care that can be provided.”
LaFaso said Fabian Excavating, The Bus, Regional Ambulance and Rutland Regional Medical Center were assisting with the evacuation late Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s going to be a while,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of beds to move. Each bed’s 400 pounds. ... Everything’s been coordinated and things have been going smoothly.”
Later in the day, Moore said the center’s staff would accompany the patients to their new locations and report to work there until the patients return. She said repairs to the heating system could take up to two days.