by: Richard Elliot Updated:
TUCKER, Ga. - One person is dead and two others hospitalized after a fire at a DeKalb County assisted living facility Tuesday morning.
The county medical examiner identified the victim as 64-year-old Laura Barrett. The fire chief told Channel 2 Action News the cause of the fire has been ruled accidental, saying the victim appeared to be smoking in bed while on oxygen.
The fire broke out on the second floor of the Meadowbrook Healthcare facility on Lawrenceville Highway in Tucker early Tuesday morning. The 75 second-floor residents were initially evacuated outside, but the cold temperatures forced them back inside to the lobby.
"The main bulk of the fire was knocked down by the sprinkler system," said DeKalb Fire Chief Edward O'Brien. "We did have to evacuate the second floor. I’ve got to say, it went very well. Staff members, from what I've been told, did an excellent job."
Family members began showing up at the facility to check on loved ones when they saw the news.
“To have a family member to be in a home to start with is total drama, and then when you just catch the news, it rips your heart that much more,” said Robert Ballard, whose brother lives at the facility.
State inspection reports show the nursing home had several fire safety deficiencies in 2012, but the reports show the facility corrected those deficiencies before the state reinspected a month later.
Channel 2 Action News looked through Meadowbrook's inspection reports and found the state gave the facility an overall rating of "much below average."
According to the fire safety reports from the August 2012 inspection, Meadowbrook had eight fire safety deficiencies, above the state average of 2.4.
Inspectors wrote that Meadowbrook did not have smoke barrier doors that could resist smoke for 20 minutes. It also determined the facility did not have emergency lighting that could last for at least one-and-a-half hours, a fire alarm system that could be heard throughout the facility, an approved sprinkler system connected to the fire alarm system, properly installed electrical wiring and equipment and other fire safety features required by fire safety codes.
The report said all the problems had been corrected by the time inspectors returned to Meadowbrook a month later.
Meadowbrook's administrator had no comment on the report.
The facility was back open Tuesday morning.