Nursing home evacuated due to electrical fire

First Byline: 
Jonathan Vickery - Staff Writer

Residents of the Williston nursing home are temporarily staying at the Barnwell hospital after an evacuation Thursday morning due to an electrical fire.
The small fire in the communication room of Laurel Baye Healthcare of Williston started after the ice storm caused two lines to fall across each other. When SCE&G restored power, the crossed lines sent too much current through the building and fried the phone and alarm systems. "It just melts," said Williston Fire Chief Milton Widener.
"There is nothing wrong with the building structurally," said Karl Eleazer, Corporate Compliance Officer for Laurel Baye Healthcare, though new alarm and phone systems have to be installed.
In the meantime, the 40 residents, none of whom were injured, are living on the top floor of Southern Palmetto Hospital, formerly Barnwell County Hospital. They were transported there by Local Motion buses and ambulances within two hours of the fire. Eleazer said this has made for a smooth transition since all residents and staff are together and not split up, like they originally thought would happen.
In addition to the hospital, Eleazer and Widener thank nursing home staff, the Williston Rescue Squad, Regional EMS Aiken, Elko, Williston and Barnwell firefighters, Barnwell County Emergency Management, and Generations Unlimited for helping with the evacuation.
Eleazer thanks everyone for their support, something she doesn't see in every community where they have a facility. "You definitely have a very special community there," she said.
A certified electrician has inspected the building, said Eleazer, and power has been restored. She said they are "pushing very, very hard" to get things ready for their folks to come back home, possibly by the end of the week.
Eleazer said the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control requires nursing homes to have detailed plans in place for such events. "I'm really proud of that crew," she said. "You don't want something like this to happen, but if it does you want it to happen that way."
Widener agreed, saying everything worked like "clockwork."