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Nursing home residents displaced after sparks fly
Residents of Bel-Air Lodge sit safely across the street from their Starr Avenue nursing facility after electrical wires atop the building began sparking. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal
Thirty nursing home residents were evacuated and more than 50 emergency personnel responded to the Bel-Air Lodge Friday afternoon because of sparking electrical lines.
The sparks coming from electrical lines on a pole attached to the Bel-Air Lodge  roof ignited a small grass fire in the back yard of a residence, but at no time was the structure of the nursing facility on fire. Bel-Air residents were originally evacuated to the shaded area across the street from the nursing home, where paramedics were on-hand and cold water was passed out. Due to the high temperature, which reached 103 degrees by 5 p.m., the residents were then taken to the War Memorial Building, located just down the street, until electricity could be restored to the nursing home.
Turlock Police Cpl. Ramon Godoy and Officers Derek Johnson and Reece Haile were in the police department parking lot, located at 900 N. Palm, Friday afternoon when they happened to look up and see an unusual sight.
“The main electrical supply pole on top of the building was shooting blue sparks,” Godoy said.
The officers called for the fire department, then went to notify nursing home staff and neighbors of the possible danger.
According to Turlock City Fire Battalion Chief Les Austin, when the fire department arrived on scene around 4 p.m., the police department had already evacuated about half of the nursing home’s 30 residents and the occupants of the adjoining houses.
The small grass fire in the backyard of a house next to the Bel-Air Lodge that was started from the sparks emanating from the main electrical supply pole was quickly put out by firefighters, said Austin. The Turlock Irrigation District was called in to disconnect the electricity to the building and make repairs.
The fire department ordered the nursing facility to remain vacant until repairs could be made, which were expected to take four to five hours.
Residents who were not able to walk were pushed to the War Memorial in their beds or wheelchairs by Bel-Air staff and emergency personnel. Buses from the Bus Line Service of Turlock were called in to transport residents who were able to walk.
Approximately 50 emergency response personnel from the Turlock Police Department, Turlock City Fire Department and American Medical Response responded to the fire and helped with the evacuation and relocation of nursing home residents. The American Red Cross was also called to help with caring for the residents while the nursing facility was being repaired.   
To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.