More than 100 handicapped children were evacuated from a residential care center when fire broke out Monday afternoon. No injuries were reported.
The 116 children, all of them suffering with neurological disorders and few of them able to walk, were ferried from the Truman W. Smith Children’s Care Center to area hospitals, nursing homes and a high school.
“All are doing well and there were no injuries among the children or the staff,” said Dr. Kathryn Akin, the center’s medical director and professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Health Center at Tyler.
The facility is a one-story building with two wings containing 58 rooms at each side. An administration area in the middle caught fire. Akin said officials believe the blaze was caused by an electrical short in the attic.
Children from across the state are housed in the center. They have conditions such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and mental retardation.
The brick building sustained smoke and water damage, and the extent of damage was being evaluated late Monday. It was unknown how long it will be before the children can be returned.
Fire Chief Wayne Smith said water from the sprinkler system and fire hoses ruined Christmas presents and stuffed animals beneath a Christmas tree near the entrance to the center.
Some of the children will remain at area hospitals or nursing homes while the building is repaired, Akin said. The parents of other children will take them home for the time being, she said.