No injuries in Woodsville, NH, hospital fire

December 2, 2010

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WOODSVILLE, N.H.—Patients at the 25-bed Cottage Hospital in northwestern New Hampshire were fed meals Thursday prepared at a nearby nursing home after a wind-swept fire on the roof damaged the kitchen. No one was injured.

The fire, which produced flames up to 10 feet high, prompted the evacuation of the adjacent emergency department.

Staff were prepared to evacuate the 18 patients staying at the hospital to ambulances waiting in the parking lot, but the fire was put out before that was needed, CEO Maria Ryan said Thursday.

"It was very, very scary," Ryan said. "We drill for these things. It just goes to show we were prepared."

Ryan said the hospital conducted a fire drill on Tuesday night and a staff member who evacuated patients during the drill Tuesday did it for real on Wednesday.

"This was like a well-oiled machine," she said. "We don't have plans that get dusty."

The Woodsville fire chief, Brad Kennedy, works in the hospital's emergency department and he was on duty when someone smelled smoke. He investigated, spotted the fire on the roof at about 7:30 p.m. and had fire crews from many area departments were on the scene within minutes, Ryan said. The fire was declared out at 9 p.m.

The kitchen is located in a separate section of the building, but it is attached to the main building.

The fire is thought to have possibly started in the motor of a dishwasher pump. The flames spread up a vent onto the roof.

A portion of the roof will have to be replaced, Ryan said. A temporary wall was installed in the kitchen Thursday but the space is not expected to be open again for several weeks, she said.

Meanwhile, meals will be prepared with food provided by the hospital at a nursing home about four miles away. Ryan said Thursday's breakfast and dinner, delivered by the nursing home, went smoothly.

The community response has been overwhelming, she said.

"Everybody is coming out of the woodwork to offer help," she said.

Cottage Hospital serves patients in the upper Connecticut River valley of New Hampshire and Vermont.