Patient, 83, suspected in Mercy arson

October 30, 1990|By Michael A. Fletcher | Michael A. Fletcher,Evening Sun Staff

Arson investigators are trying to determine whether an 83-year-old woman who was being treated at Mercy Medical Center following a fire she allegedly started in her apartment set a second fire that caused $12,500 worth of damage to her hospital room.

More than 30 patients were evacuated from the downtown hospital's 14th floor yesterday during the fire.

Fire investigators believe the patient used matches to ignite her mattress. Several books of matches were found near the patient's bed, a Fire Department spokesman said.

The two-alarm fire, which was confined to the patient's room, caused no major injuries although five patients and a police officer were taken to the hospital's emergency room and treated for smoke inhalation.

"I saw them sitting in the emergency room and everybody was fine," said Gary Michael, Mercy's vice president for public relations.

Fire investigators suspect that the blaze was set by the woman who, they said, admitted lighting a fire late Saturday night that caused $300 worth of damage to her apartment in the 800 block of W. Pratt St., said Capt. Calvin Johnson, a Fire Department spokesman.

The woman was at Mercy being treated for smoke inhalation following that fire. The woman, whom fire officials described as "senile," has not been charged in either fire. She was among the patients injured in yesterday's fire and she was still being treated at Mercy.

The hospital fire was discovered about 1 p.m. yesterday by workmen who happened to be on the 14th floor. "I think they were there hanging plaques or something," Michael said.

After seeing smoke pouring from a room, the workmen sounded the fire alarm, then quickly rescued Forbes. After that, the hospital's in-house fire team -- comprised of maintenance and security personnel -- began to put out the fire. Within minutes, they were joined by city firefighters, and the fire was under control by 1:24 p.m.

Michael said that during the fire, about 30 patients were evacuated from the 14th floor to other parts of the hospital. Most of the patients on the 14th floor are being treated for cancer, he said, and, for the most part, they had been returned to their rooms last night. Seven rooms on the floor remained closed overnight for repairs.

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