Around 5:30 pm, Wednesday November 18th, the Statesboro Fire Department received a fire alarm notification from Willow Pond Senior Care on Country Club Road in Statesboro. They immediately dispatched units to the facility.
While responding, SFD received notification from the facility that they had an electrical panel fire but thought they had it out. Upon their arrival, the firefighters began investigating and realized they indeed had an active fire between the floors of the facility.
According to SFD Deputy Chief Bobby Duggar, the active fire caused the sprinkler system in the center of the building to activate. However, the Willow Pond fire was located in an area that was not reached by the sprinklers. The facility experienced heavy fire, heat and water damage to the center of the building. The wings that housed the patients rooms were cut off by fire doors and do not seem to be heavily damaged.
Deputy Chief Duggar praised fire ground commander Westin Williams and all of the Statesboro and Bulloch County firefighters who responded and did an incredible job fighting the fire. In addition to units from Statesboro, Bulloch County units from Register and Portal responded to assist.
All Residents Evacuated
At the time of the fire, there were 38 total residents in the facility plus staff. The Willow Pond staff evacuated the entire building. Tonight (Wednesday) was the coldest night of the year so far, which added to the challenges for the staff.
Fortunately, the memory care unit is in the rear of the facility and was not damaged at all. Because of its design, it has separate power and was cleared by SFD for the eleven memory care residents to return.
Wynn Activates Community Relief Organizations for Assistance
Public Safety Director Ted Wynn activated the Bulloch VOAD to respond and assist with the evacuation of residents. In addition, the Stateboro Fire Department CAFE unit, coordinated by Bill Taylor, along with members of the American Red Cross responded. The CAFE unit is a large recreational vehicle which was able to hold a good number of residents.
Bulloch VOAD partner agencies, including Fostering Bulloch and First Baptist Church of Statesboro, helped tonight.
Chris Yaughn of Fostering Bulloch responded with blankets for the remaining residents until First Baptist staff and volunteers arrived with vans and buses. The remaining residents were transported to the Perry Fellowship Hall at First Baptist Church which was set up as a staging area.
Evacuated Residents Transported to Staging Area at First Baptist Church
Throughout the evening, family members came to FBC and picked up loved ones and took them to their homes for the evening. A few of the residents who did not have local family members were transported to Station Exchange, a sister facility owned by Willow Pond’s parent company, Georgia Living Senior Care, in Richmond Hill, Georgia.
Local and Area Assisted Living Facilities offered help
Ralph Cowart, owner of Southern Manor and Gentilly Gardens along with Becky Livingston with Bethany, responded to First Baptist Church and made rooms available in their facilities to accommodate any of the displaced residents. In addition, Cedar Plantation in Metter and Northspring in Claxton offered to help with displaced residents.
With family members accomodating a large number of residents, Willow Pond was able to handle the remaining residents without having to use the other local facilities with the help of their sister facility in Richmond Hill.
Willow Pond will Determine Tomorrow How Long Residents are Displaced
Willow Pond staff will evaluate the facility tomorrow and determine how long it will take before they can allow patients to safely return to the facility.
Live Coverage on Grice Connect as events unfolded
Grice Connect was reporting live from Willow Pond during the fire and then from First Baptist Church throughout the evening.
Community at its Very Best
Tonight we saw our community at its’ very best. When tragedy struck in what could have been a real disaster, the community immediately stepped up. From the staff at Willow Pond, the incredible firefighters, local law enforcement to great community agencies and like Bulloch VOAD, SFD CAFE, American Red Cross, Fostering Bulloch and First Baptist Church Statesboro. This is truly what makes the ‘Boro such a wonderful place to to call home.