BRIDGEWATER TOWNSHIP — Life is getting back to normal for dozens of residents at a personal care home in Susquehanna County, a week after fire forced them out into the cold.
The staff worked long hours to get the place cleaned up and the residents back and we found all of them are relieved the ordeal is over.
Most of the 55 residents of Gracious Living Estates personal care home in South Montrose have a new appreciation for mealtime and all the routines there after fire forced them to spend a week elsewhere.
“Last week was a nightmare. I’m 91 years old and I’ve never experienced anything like that in my whole life,” said resident Martha Girton.
Girton was sent an hour away to stay at a care home in Scranton.
Residents who didn’t have family to stay with went where staff could find them a room, from Binghamton to Scranton and spots in between.
“I had this shirt and pants and shoes that’s all I had with me. So it was really, really rough I must say,” Girton added.
Fire in a resident’s room last Monday damaged part of the building and forced everyone out with nothing on a bitter cold day. Dozens of them were taken to a nearby church to stay warm.
“It was awful cold to get out, you know, and I had to ride a school bus. Pretty hard to get in and out of it,” said resident William Hawley.
“I pray to God that it happens to nobody because I wouldn’t want to do it again,” said Tammy Ruhf.
Ruhf is an administrator at the home. She slept on the couch as she oversaw repairs to get everyone back. She was emotional seeing all the residents return over the weekend after an exhausting week making sure they were taken care of while repair work was done.
“When the first bus full pulled up, you just wanted to start crying because you were just glad to see everyone making it back,” Ruhf said.
“They did an awful lot of work. It did more damage that I thought it had done,” resident Joyce Hilton said.
After what happened, the staff has put bins filled with blankets at all the emergency exits in case the residents get forced out into the cold again.
That fire and cold evacuation started a week everyone here is glad to see over.
“Tired but very fortunate,” said Ruhf. “Didn’t lose a single resident, didn’t lose a staff member, that meant the world.”
The administrator said the fire started in a heater in a resident’s room. That room has been gutted and is still empty but water and smoke damage elsewhere has been repaired.