BROCKTON — A 10-alarm fire shut down Brockton Hospital Tuesday, forcing the evacuation and urgent transfer of 160 patients to other hospitals, prompting a massive response from fire departments and hospitals across the region.
The fire broke out around 8 a. m. in a basement transformer room and power was immediately cut off to the hospital and its standby generators, according to Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital and city fire officials.
The transformer room was located in a building connected to the hospital building, Fire Captain Chris Tilton said in a phone interview Tuesday night.
The mass evacuation activated the Statewide Fire Mobilization Plan, which brought emergency resources to the area “so that Brockton and communities supporting Brockton had coverage for fires and other emergencies as the incident unfolded,” the state fire marshal’s office said in a statement Tuesday night.
Some 77 ambulances, six wheelchair vans, 31 fire engines, and seven ladder trucks responded to the scene, the fire department said on Twitter.
There were no injuries. The cause of the fire remains under investigation, the statement said.
Fire Chief Brian Nardelli said the room where the transformer fire was reported was “energized” when crews arrived, so they had to wait for National Grid to shut down power to the building.
“Once we were able to make our way in after shutting down the power, we had to make a decision about the hospital and what we were going to do with the patients in the hospital,” Nardelli said.
The evacuation unfolded over several hours, with hospital employees carrying babies in their arms and pushing older patients in wheelchairs to safety.
Shortly after 11 a.m., a half-dozen ambulances from Brewster arrived at the hospital. Paramedics lined stretchers outside a stairwell entrance. Within a half-hour, ambulances from other towns filled the parking lot.
Just before noon, an X-ray operator sat at a nearby coffee shop with other hospital workers and relatives of patients. When the fire broke out, parts of the building, including the second-floor wing she was working in when the alarms sounded, filled with smoke.
“And then the lights went out,” she said, declining to give her name. “We were like, ‘This is real.’”
As of 1 p.m., the ICU and labor and delivery had been fully evacuated. The medical-surgical floor soon followed. About 12 behavioral health patients also remained to be evacuated, according to internal briefing documents for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, which also responded to the scene.
Shortly after 3 p.m., Nardelli said at a news conference that the fire had been mostly extinguished, with crews snuffing out any “last hotspots.”
Firefighters “basically cut the building in half,” evacuating patients through front entrances while battling flames in the back of the hospital, he said.
“We had to shut off the generators, so we had to bring these people down from the upper floors,” Nardelli said. “This went as smoothly as it possibly could.”
Brockton Fire has struck a 10th alarm for manpower to assist at the Brockton Hospital. Evacuations continue. The fire is knocked down. Hazmat crews continue air sampling. Very active scene. Avoid the area. pic.twitter.com/QcUC0KpHCF— Brockton Fire (@Brockton_Fire) February 7, 2023
Outside the hospital Tuesday afternoon, employees described a chaotic scene.
Kathie Gillis, a medical assistant at Brockton Pediatrics, was working across the street and heard about the fire from a patient. She worried where so many patients would wind up.
“That’s frightening,” she said. ”Where are they going to go?”
Patients were taken to Cape Cod Hospital, Falmouth Hospital, a hospital in Boston, and Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, said Brockton Mayor Robert Sullivan. Sullivan called the response “a great collaboration” between local and state rescuers.
Robert Haffey, president of the hospital, said it was too early to tell when the hospital would reopen but emphasized that outpatient care would continue at off-site centers. All elective procedures have been canceled through Friday, the hospital said.
“We were able to move all of our patients out of the hospital with zero injuries and zero deaths,” Haffey said. “We’re very proud of that.”
Relatives seeking information on where patients were transferred can call 617-370-5971.
Jessica Bartlett of the Globe staff and Correspondent Matt Yan contributed to this report.
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