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Two Patients Die In Nursing Home Fire

July 21, 1989

HALLOCK, Minn. (AP) _ A nursing home fire caused by a smoker who fell asleep killed him and another elderly man early today and forced rescuers to rush bedridden residents through smoke-filled halls on stretchers.

Three residents were injured.

Relatives and friends hurried to comfort patients of Hallock Memorial Nursing Home.

″We thought they needed to be reassured and be with someone they know,″ said nursing director Shirley Nordling. ″It’s a very frightening experience.″

Fire alarms sounded at 3:20 a.m., and firefighters were able to contain the blaze largely to a single room, according to the Kittson County Sheriff’s Department.

Two men and a woman were hospitalized in good condition, suffering from smoke inhalation, Ms. Nordling said.

The sheriff’s department identified the dead as patients Hugh Sugden, 79, and John Hemmes, 99.

State fire investigator Kevin Schuman said Sugden fell asleep in a chair, and the fire ignited his clothes and the chair and then spread rapidly.

Ten residents had to be moved from the nursing home to Kittson Memorial Hospital, many of them on stretchers because they are unable to walk. The nursing home occupies two wings of the hospital in northwestern Minnesota, and the fire affected only one wing.

Hospital board chairman Harold Anderson called the fire ″very tragic, yet it’s good work by all that kept it from being more serious.″

The cause of the blaze was under investigation. A damage estimate was not immediately available.

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