Nashville, Tenn. Bedridden patients screamed for help and firefighters carried the elderly and disabled down ladders and stairs as a fire spread through a four-story nursing home with no sprinkler system, killing eight people and critically injuring 16.
The home was exempt from a state law requiring sprinklers, but firefighters said such devices probably would have saved lives.
The fire broke out late Thursday in a second-floor room of the NHC Healthcare Center, on the edge of downtown Nashville.
The cause was under investigation. Officials said there was no immediate evidence of arson.
Most of the 116 residents were carried out by firefighters or rolled in wheelchairs to safety. Few patients could walk, and the nursing home's elevators were knocked out in the fire, which filled the home with smoke.
It took firefighters about an hour to contain the blaze, which was confined largely to one end of the building but spread smoke throughout the place.
Among the victims was Thelma Connelly, the 96-year-old mother of District Fire Chief Bobby Connelly, who was off duty but went to the scene, said Deputy Fire Chief Kim Lawson.
Eighty-two residents and one nursing home employee were treated at Nashville hospitals for burns and smoke inhalation.
The dead were: Connelly; Margaret H. Dilbeck, 80; Alma I. Gordy, 85; Dorothy M. Lee, 76; Isabel Lollar, 85; Priscilla B. Polk, 82; and Anna Tolston, 86; and Lydia Bodnar, 86.