‘Mobile boiler rooms’ arrive at hospital over weekend
LOCK HAVEN — UPMC Lock Haven Hospital remains closed indefinitely, after a fire in the boiler room erupted Thursday evening, spreading toxic smoke throughout the area, causing the evacuation of all patients.
Meanwhile, work has begun to make repairs and get the hospital back open.
Over the weekend a large contingent of trucks, trailers, a large tank and other equipment moved into an area behind the hospital near the entrance to Haven Place, which is part of UPMC Lock Haven.
Two trailers labeled “Mobile Boiler Room,” and about a dozen workers could be seen Sunday on the site where a large number of pipes were unloaded.
“The activity is part of our efforts to safely restore services at the hospital. The safety of the community and environment is our top priority as we continue to clean up the site,” UPMC Manager of Communications Tyler Wagner said
The fire brought out dozens of pieces of fire apparatus and more than 100 firefighters from three counties. Safety personnel remained on scene through the night and all day Friday as hospital workers and contractors assisted fire crews in digging open the tunnel, extinguishing the fire and controlling smoke.
It wasn’t until 8 p.m. Friday that the fire operations were declared complete by the Clinton County Department of Emergency Services and all fire companies had returned to their stations.
At about 5 p.m. Friday, Clinton County Director of Emergency Services Andrew Kremser issued a warning through the local media for residents of the Flemington area near UPMC Lock Haven, to shelter in place until 9 p.m. “in an abundance of caution as an excessive amount of smoke may be released as firefighting operations continued.”
The area included residents east of Canal Street, west of Summit Street, north of Woods Avenue and south of Glenn Road. The residents were advised to stay indoors, close all windows and turn off air conditioning units.
Ron Reynolds, president of UPMC Lock Haven and UPMC Muncy, issued a statement on Saturday.
“I credit the quick response of our staff and first responders for preventing this incident from escalating. Hospital staff and EMS safely evacuated and transferred patients ensuring a minimal disruption of care, and firefighters were able to contain the fire to the tunnel structure located outside the hospital,” Reynolds said.
There were 14 patients in the hospital at the time of the fire.
Initially the patients were moved to another safe and secure section of the hospital. Later Thursday night the decision was made to transfer the patients to other facilities.
Some were discharged and others were transferred to UPMC Williamsport and UPMC Muncy, according to Wagner.
The fire did not affect the residents at UPMC Haven Place or neighboring Susque-View, Wagner said.
Maintenance crews from the hospital had been working to seal the tunnel, which runs under the roadway from the boiler room to the hospital in an area near the emergency room entrance, on Thursday, Wagner said.
The crew was using a chemical sealant which had some sort of a reaction and started a fire in the boiler room, Wagner explained, when asked how the fire began. He said the tunnel was being sealed because it is no longer needed.
The first indication that something was wrong came at about 8 p.m. Thursday when the toxic smoke began filling the air. When the first firefighters arrived about an hour later they discovered the fire in the tunnel.
It soon became apparent that firefighters would become quickly overwhelmed by the smell and the heat, and Citizens Hose Fire Chief Norm Wolfrom sounded a second alarm, calling in companies in neighboring counties to provide manpower.
A command center was set up near the emergency room entrance. Another area of the parking lot a short distance from the hospital was turned into a triage area for firefighters to take a break, get out of their heavy fire gear, grab a bottle of water and be checked out by medical personnel.
None were taken by ambulance from the scene and there were no injuries, according to Wolfrom.
Wagner said hospital, local, and state health officials continue to evaluate the extent of damage to the hospital. “It is not yet known when services can safely be restored,” Wagner said.
Meanwhile, Reynolds thanked everyone who responded and supported the incident.
“Your tireless efforts are why we’re now able to take the steps necessary to restore operations at the hospital. The community was there for us in our time of need, and we look forward to safely reopening the hospital and serving our community as soon as possible,” he said.
Patients with upcoming scheduled surgeries or appointments will be contacted to reschedule. Those in need of emergency care should call 9-1-1.
Updates on the reopening of UPMC Lock Haven will be made available through UPMC Susquehanna’s Facebook page and on our website, UPMCSusquehanna.org.