updated 12/12/2005 11:27:36 AM ET 2005-12-12T16:27:36

Fire broke out early Monday at a 122-bed nursing home in far northern Michigan, killing two people and sending at least 70 others to hospitals, authorities said.

Other residents had to be evacuated as the outside temperature fell to about 14 degrees.

The fire was reported about 12:15 a.m. at the Mather Nursing Center, several miles west of Marquette on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and about 360 miles north of Detroit.

Two people taken to Bell Memorial Hospital in Ishpeming died of smoke inhalation, spokesman Rich Rossway said.

“The kind of people we’re seeing are all related to smoke inhalation,” Rossway said.

Cause undetermined
The fire severely damaged two rooms in the T-shaped, one-story nursing home’s back wing, but flames appeared to have spared the front, where Christmas decorations filled the windows. A smoke alarm was still sounding in the building more than nine hours after the fire was reported.

State police Sgt. Brian Graustein said that it was too early in the investigation to determine the cause.

“They’re still just trying to take care of the residents,” Graustein said.

Blankets, towels, nightgowns and chairs were scattered across the front of the nursing home, apparently left by residents as they waited to be taken to shelters.

Uninjured residents were taken to temporary shelters at Ishpeming Township Hall, nearby Westwood High School and a facility in Marquette, authorities said.

Seventeen of them sat on mattresses and in wheelchairs in the gym and cafeteria at Westwood High.

“They’re very confused and frightened,” said Paula Susmark, executive director of the Central Upper Peninsula chapter of the American Red Cross.

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