Just before 3 a.m. Sunday, fire crews arrived at an Upper Macungie Township senior facility where a wall of flames raced up a rear wall and more than 80 residents slept peacefully inside.
The call is one that emergency responders often dread — a three-alarm fire at a facility where older people suffering from medical issues who may not be able to hear a smoke alarm and quickly escape.
“These are older, nonambulatory people who, as you can imagine, don’t move all that quickly,” Upper Macungie police Chief Edgardo Colon said of the Heather Glen Senior Living facility at 415 Blue Barn Road. “There was a lot of creativity happening to help get everyone out.”
Fire officials, police and EMS worked together to help evacuate 82 residents, as well as five staff members. Fogelsville fire Chief Jacque R. Creamer Jr. said the cause remains under investigation.
Crews arrived to find large flames pouring through the rear of the building.
Colon said it was a chaotic scene as they raced to wake residents and help move them out of the smoke-filled building.
He said one resident was sitting in a chair and two officers grabbed either side of the chair, moving the person into the parking lot.
“It was quite dramatic and I can’t say enough about the cooperation and dedication of all the fire, police and emergency crews who helped,” Colon said.
The fire appeared to have started outside the building and spread to the roof, fire officials said.
All residents and staff members were taken to an off-site location for further evaluation, reunification with family or transfer to another facility.
Fire crews were able to stop the flames from spreading to the living quarters, but there was heavy smoke damage to one part of the building. A section of the roof had to be removed and ceilings pulled down to put out the fire.
Some of the displaced residents were sent to the Trexlertown fire company and a facility in Emmaus, police said. Colon said about six residents were taken to area hospitals as a precaution.
A spokesperson with Heather Glen Senior Living could not be reached for comment Sunday. Fire officials said residents will be displaced until damage is repaired.
Authorities said two firefighters suffered minor injuries, but were released from the hospital by Sunday afternoon.
The fire remains under investigation by the Upper Macungie Bureau of Fire and Upper Macungie police.
In the coming days, Creamer said, donations may be needed for some of the residents.
“As you can imagine, we’re going to have some people telling us that Dad fled without his dentures or Mom is missing her shoes,” he said.
Officials hailed the efforts of first responders who helped prevent serious injuries or fatalities.