Four people remain missing — and are feared dead — after last week’s inferno at a West Chester nursing home.
Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan said emergency workers continue sifting through the charred rubble of the Barclay Friends Senior Living Community for any sign of the missing residents — a 92-year-old man, his 89-year-old wife, and two other women, ages 93 and 85.
“We have four people unaccounted for, and we are not expecting good news,” Hogan said. “Say a prayer for them and their families. They are going through the toughest time you can imagine.”
First responders did help evacuate 133 other residents and 15 staff members from a blaze that spread so quickly that some didn’t have time to put on their breathing apparatus or full uniforms.
“They kept going back in there until their helmets were melting and cracked. They risked their lives to bring out everyone they could,” Hogan said, adding that more than 400 emergency workers responded on an otherwise frigid night.
Neighbors and passers-by also helped save residents in a scene made more chaotic by the late hour, the sheer number of residents, and their advanced age. Most had been sleeping when the fire erupted just before 11 p.m. Thursday, their escape slowed by wheelchairs and walkers and age-related ailments. Twenty-seven were injured.
“We would have expected to lose 40 to 50 people in a fire like this,” Hogan said.
Federal authorities also are investigating the five-alarm blaze, which spread rapidly throughout the sprawling 20-year-old complex. The community has rallied in a massive, grass-roots relief effort to collect clothing and other supplies for the displaced residents.
“These victims are everyone’s parents and grandparents,” Hogan said. “Our hearts go out to the families of the four missing folks.”
Hogan updated reporters about the tragedy in an afternoon news conference at his office. Officials did not take questions but promised updates as more information arises.
The fire’s cause remains unknown.