Belleview, FL – Single sprinkler controls attic fire at assisted living center; Lightning strike identified as cause

The fire that forced the evacuation of residents and staff at an assistant living facility in Belleview was apparently caused by Mother Nature. According to a spokesperson from the State Fire Marshal’s Office, it appears the fire was caused by a lightning strike. Damage to the attic area is approximately $30,000. The exact cause of the fire won’t be determined until the investigation is complete.

Marion County Fire Rescue officials said Friday there were reports of heavy weather with lightning in the area prior to the fire. Fire officials said the blaze started in the attic above the electric panels and moved along the trusses. Firefighters, sheriff’s deputies and others placed 56 residents from Hampton Manor Assisted Living, 10590 SE 62nd Avenue Road, onto buses that transported them to another Hampton Manor facility.

Fire officials said they received the call about 5:05 p.m. and arrived on scene at 5:11 p.m. The fire was under control at 5:29 p.m. Beatrice Kelty, community director at Hampton Manor, told the Star-Banner that Donna Clifford was in the kitchen when she heard a pop sound in the breaker and then saw fire in the ceiling. Clifford, the dietary supervisor, immediately pulled the alarm. There were seven staff members on duty at the time of the fire.

Kelty said she quickly went to the kitchen and doused the blaze with a fire extinguisher. Kelty said she and the other team members, including Dawn Crossley, a resident care manager, went to get the residents and evacuate them. None of the residents were in the kitchen at the time of the fire. When the fire started, Kelty said, they were in the middle of dinner.

“My team was excellent and the residents cooperated,” Kelty said. According to a fire report, as the fire made its way through the attic, a single fire sprinkler was activated and it contained the fire to the general area until firefighters arrived. The report also said that as soon as flames were seen in the attic, a staff member pulled the kitchen pull station that activated the hood. Though no fire was present in the hood, fire officials said it prevented the gas from going into the kitchen.

“The early actions by the staff to activate the fire alarm and notify MCFR along with the operation of the sprinkler system allowed for a quick response and to contain the damage,” according to the report. Cindy Campbell, director of operations, told the Star-Banner that all the residents remain at the Hampton Manor at 1500 SE 24th Road because the Belleview building sustained significant damage in the kitchen area.

Campbell said its unknown when the repairs will begin or end or when residents will be able to return to the Belleview building. For now, she said, they’re looking for an alternate location, and the residents at the Southeast 24th Road facility are adjusting well.

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