Assisted living facility making most out of fire evacuations; staying in Payson hotel

PAYSON, Utah -- An assisted living facility that's evacuated from the Pole Creek Fire, has turned a hotel into a makeshift medical center to keep their around-the-clock care running while they wait to return.

Inside the Quality Inn in Payson, the bottom floor hallway has turned into a temporary home for 18 residents of the Elk Ridge Assisted Living center.

CNA Shalauna Jean divvied out pre-lunch pills at a mobile nurse's station at the end of the hallway, then brought pill cups to each room. The doors sat ajar for easy access to the people inside.

"Hi Carrie! Can I give you your pills?" Jean asked as she entered one of the rooms.

As she exited another, she told the person lunch was on the way.

Jean checked on an elderly woman sitting in a lobby chair and held a cup with a straw up to the woman's mouth.

"You need another drink?" Jean asked.

The residents are adjusting to their new living situation, after arriving Thursday when evacuations became mandatory for the Elk Ridge, Woodland Hills and Covered Bridge communities.

"We could see the fire coming down the mountain," said Chris Hermansen, facility owner, and RN.

He said they called the families of all the 30 residents. Some came to pick their loved ones up, and the facility brought the rest into town.

Hermansen said he quickly called the Quality Inn and booked the first floor, because it's the only hotel in Payson.

Not only did they evacuate their people, he indicated that they loaded up medical equipment, medications and supplies.

"Everything to sustain their needs for a couple of days, who knows-- two, three, four, up to a week," he said. "We don't know how long we're going to be here."On Friday, he said he made another trip up to the facility escorted by a sheriff's deputy to grab more items.

Around lunchtime, Chick-Fil-A brought in a donated meal, that Hermansen said the Red Cross coordinated.

In the lobby of the hotel, those in the facility's care sat around passing the time.

Diane Kingston came to visit her mother, Loraine Nelson.

"I'm sorry that I have to leave own my home," Nelson said to Kingston.

Kingston said she, too had to evacuate the fire. Kingston lives in Woodland Hills.
"It's just surreal," she said, getting emotional. "We just... hopeful that all will be well."
As they wait on Mother Nature, daily life carries on. Above all, Kingston and Nelson expressed they're grateful for a safe place to stay."It was important that I had a safe place to be," Nelson said, later adding, "I hope they'll be able to save our homes and everything."