MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The owner of Feels Like Home, a Hickory Hill senior facility that caught fire last month, killing one, says inspectors alerted staff that the fire sprinklers were not working on the day of the fire.
Feels Like Home caught on fire on December 29, tragically leaving one 72-year-old man dead.
The owner, Vanecia Kimbrow, says the facility fell victim to the winter storm, with burst pipes and water outages affecting the sprinkler system.
Kimbrow tells WREG that two other residents were injured in the blaze but are doing better.
One was released from the hospital the day after the fire. The other is in stable condition and recovering; 47 residents escaped, but the impact was evident early on.
On December 29th, the day of the fire, she says repair people worked from 11 a.m. to about 6 p.m. to get all major systems back in operation after the storm.
However, the property was red-tagged, meaning they still had to do a fire watch, where staff walks and monitors the property in 30-minute to hour-long shifts.
“We were working to get past all those things– burst pipes, water freezes,” said Kimbrow.
Kimbrow says the alarms went off when the fire started, and the staff was alerted, but the sprinklers were not working.
She says everyone tried to urge the 72-year-old blind victim to come out, but he apparently became disoriented; the fire apparently started in his room.
“They could not convince him to walk out of the room. He panicked, as would many elderly seniors who cannot see,” said Kimbrow.
The fire department says it got the call around 7:52 p.m., but the owner thinks fire crews were not able to get immediate access to the facility because of a closed-off road.
She says she has been in a battle for years to get the road re-opened.
“We lose an emergency access lane. So it took forever for the fire trucks to make their way to our property in order to stage and get the fire put out timely,” said Kimbrow.
The fire department did not respond about any delays. But they, along with some at the facility, say firefighters immediately began fighting the fire and making rescues.
As of now, there is no word on how long the seniors will be housed at the Embassy Suites Hotel in East Memphis.
The exact cause of the fire is still being investigated.