Nightly News   |  January 23, 2014

Deadly Fire Raises Concerns at Senior Centers

The fire chief in Quebec called it “a night from hell” after a ball of flames engulfed a nursing home.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> there is a terrible tragedy north of the border in quebec, a massive fire hit the area killing at least three residents. tonight, dozens more are still not accounted for and sadly are feared dead. and at the investigation there continues it is raising questions about the escape plans at senior centers and nursing homes across this country. our report tonight from nbc's john yang .

>> reporter: when the fire chief arrived on the scene early this morning it was, he said, a ball of fire. total conflragation, with neighbors hearing cries from balconies, and sub-zero temperatures. the chief called it a night from hell. daylight revealed crushed ice . this man drove all night from montreal and fears his 99-year-old mother didn't make it.

>> my mother, she is blind. she moved this person first, okay, and she is still there. i can't believe it.

>> reporter: officials say most of the 52 residents were older than 75. only five could get around on their own. i can't get over it, this man says. and there is still a lot of bodies there. officials say only part of the building had a sprinkler system . today, about a third of the complex remains standing. in the united states , there were two fires in 2003 , in connecticut, 16 people died at a hartford nursing home . and seven months later, 15 people died at a nashville facility. those fires prompted federal regulators to require sprinklers in all nursing homes .

>> not only do they detect a fire and make the occupants aware of what is going on so they can evacuate, but they also can control the fire and alert the fire department .

>> reporter: something that could have saved lives and anguish in canada. john yang , nbc news, canada.