Fire displaces patients at Turlock's Emanuel Medical Center

pguerra@modbee.comFebruary 14, 2013 

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    alternate text Patty Guerra
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— A construction crew hit an oxygen line at Emanuel Medical Center on Thursday morning, causing a brief fire that resulted in the displacement of a few patients but no injuries, officials said.

Crews broke the line at 8:43 a.m. while working on two operating rooms under construction at the hospital.

Fire crews arrived at 8:47 a.m., according to Turlock police Sgt. Steve Webb. By then, construction workers already had extinguished the blaze.

Firefighters cleared smoke from hallways and knocked down some walls to ensure the fire was out, said Gary Lunsford, battalion chief for the Turlock Fire Department.

"Especially with a hospital, we didn't want any threat that the fire had spread," he said.

Officials said the broken line did not affect oxygen services at the hospital. Ken Gomes, assistant vice president for facilities at Emanuel, said workers closed off a valve to ensure the flow continued uninterrupted.

Five babies in the nearby neonatal unit were sent to a Modesto hospital as a precaution, said Pennie Rorex, vice president for corporate communications at Emanuel.

In addition to the five babies who were taken to Modesto, four expectant mothers were moved to other rooms at Emanuel. No other patients were affected, Rorex said.

Two operating rooms adjoin the construction area. Doctors performing a surgery under way when the incident occurred finished the procedure; remaining operations in the two rooms will be rescheduled or moved to one of Emanuel's four other operating rooms.

"We are extremely proud of our joint efforts with Turlock's emergency responders," Rorex said. "Together, we were able to minimize patient care disruption and restore almost all hospital services within an hour."

Police helped close adjoining roads, Webb said. They were opened by 10 a.m.

"By 9:50, we were calling an all-clear," Rorex said. Firefighters cleared the scene at 10:12 a.m., Luns- ford said.

Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter, @pattyguerra.

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