Monday, November 27, 2006

Dupont houses have history of fires

The blaze that killed nine residents and one worker at the Anderson Guest House Monday was far from the first time that homes owned by convicted felon Robert Dupont, Joplin, have had fires.
Today's Joplin Globe notes that Dupont's local Guest Houses in Carthage, Carl Junction, and Joplin, have been cited for fire safety violations, though the Anderson Guest House had not been.
It was also noted that a small-scale fire occurred at the facility over the weekend.

But state officials had long been aware, or should have been, of problems at Dupont-owned facilities. As former Carthage and Lamar Press reporter Cait Purinton noted in an article published July 11, 1997, during her investigative series that eventually led to the closing of the Lamar Guest House, that facility had a troubling history with fires:

Four fires have been set at the Lamar Guest House, two of which were "deliberately set by residents and two were accidentally started by residents." According to the documents, the basic structure of the facility creates a situation in which the building could burn rapidly, if a fire occurred. "At the time of a previous fire, a fireman said he did not know why the building did not burn to the ground," according to the inspection report.

Among the problems found by Division of Aging (the forerunner of the Department of Health and Senior Services), during a March 11, 1997, inspection and a June 19, 1997, reinspection:

-The operator knowingly allows the admission and continued care of residents whose behaviors create a fire danger.
-The operator knowingly allows the continued use of padlocks on the exterior of resident room doors.
-The operator knowingly fails to install flame resistant curtains or drapes or to treat them with a fire retardant substance.
-The operator knowingly fails to maintain electrical wiring in a safe manner.
-The operator knowingly fails to repair structural deterioration which aggravate existing fire safety problems.
-The operator knowingly fails to install carpeting that is certified as fire resistant.
-The operator knowingly fails to provide appropriate services to residents who exhibit behavior problems in order to control their behaviors and safeguard themselves and others.

Miss Purinton wrote of one particular incident in which a Lamar Guest House resident nearly lost her life during a fire:

A Lamar Guest House resident crept his way into the northwest corner of the residential care facility March 17, 1997. In a small upstairs room, the man piled paper and combustible materials into the closet. He set a small spark that grew into a fire, according to Division of Aging inspection documents. He saw the fire was growing, became scared and fled the room. As he bolted out the door, he closed it behind him. Shortly after he left the room, the fire alarm sounded and alerted the facility's staff and the Lamar Fire Department. According to the inspection documents, staff members approached the fire and tried to extinguish it, but they said the fire had extended too far to be put out with portable fire extinguishers. The fire department responded to the call and put out the fire. Firefighters entered the building to ensure safety before allowing anyone back inside. "The firefighters found a female resident in her room asleep," the inspection sheets said. "Facility staff said she must have went back in after the fire was out. The firefighter said the building was not determined to be safe when she was sleeping downstairs in the same section of the building where the fire occurred." The room in which the fire was set was completely destroyed.

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