West Texans Band Together to Evacuate Nursing Home

Nick Lawton
NewsWest 9

CRANE - After the sun went down in Crane on Tuesday, a grassfire broke out west of town. And the workers and residents of the Crane Nursing and Rehabilitation Center found themselves caught in the path of the blaze.

They received the call from the sheriff's office: evacuate.

"The call came in about 7:30 p.m., basically kind of telling us to hold still for a minute," Cheryl Fowler with Medical Records, said. "8:00 p.m.: we started evacuating."

Four school buses were mobilized to take the 51 residents at the home to the Crane Elementary School gym.

As each resident, some in wheelchairs and some on oxygen, were carefully moved to the buses, workers could tell how close the flames were.

"You could smell it coming through the air conditioner in the car," Ashley Toothman with Human Resources, said. "It was bright enough in the sky, the light in the sky, that it almost had a halo over us."

Working together, in just one hour, every resident was evacuated.

"It was chaotic," Fowler said. "A lot went on to prepare for, to get the evacuation process started. We had to have food, we had to have blankets, we had to have our charts, we had a whole list of things we had to make sure we take with us to the site, and that's some good process. Everybody pitched in and did their part."

Nursing home workers said the entire community came together.

Police, former employees, hospital workers, school nurses, even residents from as far away as McCamey and Monahans volunteered to help move the residents and make sure they had everything they would need at the school.

"Hydrated, fed, snacks offered, they just took the load off of us," Fowler said. "Asking 'Where can I go? What can I do?' It was awesome."

Fortunately, the residents only had to stay at the gym for an hour-and-a-half.

They were returned to the home later that night with no injuries or complications whatsoever. That's being attributed to West Texans coming together to help each other when under fire.

"We were not able to get here as quickly as the community did and they did such a good job," Toothman said. "Something that could have went really badly, we got it in, we got it done, and we got them out and everybody was safe."