- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 27, 2003

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) A suspicious fire ripped through a nursing home before daybreak yesterday, killing 10 persons and forcing more than 100 residents some of them bedridden, elderly and confused into the freezing cold.
The blaze at the Greenwood Health Center also injured 23 persons, seven critically. Many of the injured already were chronically ill.
"It's certainly the worst fire we've had in the city of Hartford for several decades," Fire Chief Charles Teale said.
Police took a 23-year-old woman into custody for questioning.
"There will be a lot of questions if her mental capacity was a factor," Lt. Michael Manzi of the Hartford police said.
Flames and thick smoke forced residents out of the building and into the darkness.
The home cares for coma patients and elderly or retarded people, and rescuers had to struggle to take many of them out on gurneys and in wheelchairs.
"Upon my arrival, it became apparent that all hands would be needed," Chief Teale said.
Family members flooded the facility's parking lot, some clutching pictures and rosaries as they pleaded for information.
"Where is the fire? Where is the fire?" Maria Cunba sobbed, clutching her temples as she ran toward a police officer. She was looking for her mother, a 97-year-old resident of the home.
Jolie Marreo was looking for her 54-year-old uncle.
"He couldn't even have gotten out if he wanted to," she said, wiping away tears from behind her glasses. "He's blind."
The fate of the two residents was not immediately known.
Some families got information they did not want to hear. Luis Henriquez held a silver-framed school photo of his 17-year-old son, who had been in a coma for three years.
"One of the ministers told me he didn't make it," he said. "I want to know if the body's still here."
The fire broke out at 2:40 a.m. and was confined to one section of the single-story brick building. In all, 100 of the 148 patients were evacuated. Authorities later found a place for them in another part of the home.
Temperatures were in the single digits, but none of the patients was in the cold for more than 10 minutes, Chief Teale said.


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