Deadly Chester County nursing home fire started on patio, investigators say

With smoke heavy in the air, a couple walks in the vicinity of a fire at the the Barclay Friends Senior Living Community in West Chester, Pa., Nov. 17. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

With smoke heavy in the air, a couple walks in the vicinity of a fire at the the Barclay Friends Senior Living Community in West Chester, Pa., Nov. 17. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

The deadly fire that destroyed a West Chester nursing home last month started on a covered patio outside, investigators said.

But Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokeswoman Charlene Hennessy said investigators haven’t yet determined what caused the fast-moving five-alarm blaze at the Barclay Friends Senior Living Community on Nov. 16.

They also don’t know how the fire was able to spread so quickly from the patio behind the south wing of the nursing home’s Woolman building — or if fire-suppression systems such as sprinklers failed to work.

But they don’t suspect foul play.

Hennessy said authorities will have more information to release next week, after they complete further tests and investigating.

The fire gutted the sprawling two-story nursing home on North Franklin Street, killing four residents who couldn’t escape and injuring another 27.

In all, nearly 133 residents and 15 staff were in the complex on the wintry night the blaze broke out. Most had settled down to sleep for the night, and many had physical and mental infirmities, leading to a chaotic rescue effort that spurred neighbors and passers-by to help firefighters and police.

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