Community steps up following fire at Bristol nursing home

By Ethan Hartley
Posted 12/27/23

When the fire alarm rang out inside the Franklin Court Assisted Living facility on Wednesday, Dec. 20, administrator Angela Cabral and her team kicked into action. When news spread about how 80 seniors were displaced as a result, so did the Bristol community.

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Community steps up following fire at Bristol nursing home


When the fire alarm rang out inside the Franklin Court Assisted Living facility on Wednesday, Dec. 20, administrator Angela Cabral and her team kicked into action.

They quickly evacuated all 80 senior residents from the building, as water from the sprinkler system poured from above, to the Franklin Court Independent Living center located further down the mill complex, with staff going back and forth to bring critical items and medication that residents needed but couldn’t grab during the chaos of the moment.

“She makes that sound like an easy feat,” said Diane Mederos, Executive Director of the East Bay Community Development Corporation, which owns Franklin Court. “Within an hour, the staff was on the phone with every single residents’ family. That process alone was very difficult.”

The exact cause of the fire was not known as of press time this morning, but Cabral said the fire marshal had determined it to be accidental in nature. Although the sprinkler systems did their job and prevented any spread to the fire, the water damage that resulted has rendered the assisted living facility totally uninhabitable.

“It’s not safe for anyone to be in here,” Cabral said.

While crews are working to clean up the damage, Mederos said they will still need to conduct inspections of the building’s electrical systems to see if they suffered water damage. While she was thankful they seem to be in good shape financially thanks to their insurance policy, it still isn’t clear when residents will be able to return yet.

“The hope is within 30 days, but I wouldn’t hazard a guess at this point,” Mederos said. “We’re looking to shorten that window if we can.”

Thankfully, there were some silver linings to be found amidst the tragedy of the moment.

For one, 48 of the 80 residents were able to be immediately placed at the Rhode Island Veterans Home, where an underutilized wing was able to be opened up, and Franklin Court staff were able to slot right in and continue to provide support to the seniors who know and trust them.

“All of our staff is there. Our chef is there, nurses, housekeeping, activities,” Cabral said. “All familiar faces, everyone knows their medical issues, it worked out perfectly actually.”

Another 32 seniors were taken back in by their families, where they remain. Cabral anticipates some of those families won’t be able to continue to care for their senior family members indefinitely, and she said that Dawn Hill and Silver Creek in Bristol have already offered up their assistance to place those seniors with temporary accommodations until Franklin Court can open back up.

On top of that help, Cabral praised the Bristol Police and Fire Departments, with a special mention to the Ladies Auxiliary, who bought pizza for all the residents (it was dinner time when the fire alarms started, so it was a gesture with added importance).

And to top off the community support, Cabral started receiving gifts from families of residents and community members in the days following the fire; everything from toiletries and blankets, to games and activities for the seniors to play and even a large donation to fund a party for the seniors when they are finally able to return to Franklin Court.

“This community at large, I just can’t say enough, they’re incredibly generous,” Cabral said. “It’s chilling, actually, to see it happen. The outpouring of support was incredible since it happened that night.”

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.