Wilkes-Barre, PA – Sprinkler system helps save lives in nursing home fire; No injuries reported

Dozens of properties in downtown Wilkes-Barre lost power Friday morning, including a long-term care facility where a fire broke out. Fire crews responded to St. Luke’s Villa at 80 E. Northampton St. around 12:20 p.m. for a fire in an elevator shaft around the same time as other downtown properties lost power.  The approximately 100 residents of the mixed-used facility, primarily senior citizens, had been moved away from the fire scene to a different part of the building as the site is operating on emergency power through a generator.

As of 1:30 p.m., Wilkes-Barre Fire Chief Jay Delaney said city officials, utility companies and managers of the non-profit facility were trying to determine if it was safe for the residents to remain. “Right now, we’re in the decision-making process,” Delaney said. “The number one issue is making sure the residents are safe.”

St. Luke’s Villa, which is run by the the Diocese of Scranton, is a 50-bed nursing home, a 45-room personal care facility and a 31-apartment retirement community. Delaney said the it’s unclear if St. Luke’s was the cause of the broader outage or if other power problems in the area led to St. Luke’s fire.

PPL Electric Utilities said 87 customers lost power and they hoped to have service restored by 3 p.m. Delaney said crews were trying to “isolate” St. Luke’s from the electrical grid so power could be restored to everyone else until the building’s issues were resolved. The chief said the fire was extinguished quickly, and the most damage was due to a third-floor sprinkler system causing water to seep down into the floors below.

John Howells, director of long term care facilities for the Diocese of Scranton, said he doubts residents will have to move from the building, but a final decision will be made when power is restored. “State agencies have been notified. At this point, there is no need to evacuate,” he said. “When the power comes back, we have to do a series of checks.”

Most of the sprinkler water pooled on a lobby floor and teams from Serve Pro have already cleaned up most of the mess, he said.

“Things got wet, but it wasn’t flooded,” Howells said.

Crews from the elevator company are at the site waiting for power to be restored, he said.

Howells said residents are doing fine and all have been cleared to return to their rooms.

He credited the staff for great work.

“Everything went the way it was supposed to have gone,” Howells said.

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