Rogers Co fire

Tuesday, March 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The residents of a Rogers County home for the disabled will be spending the night at a Claremore church, because their home burned Saturday afternoon. KOTV's Emory Bryan went to the home near Tiawah to find out more. The burned out building was home to 24 mentally disabled adults.

The men lived on the east side, they lost everything. The women lived on the west side; their rooms didn't burn, but were heavily damaged by smoke and water. All of the residents made it outside, without injury. Owner Jerry Copp has faced a lot of skepticism in the last 20 years. Long before this weekend's fire, some folks doubted a country style home for the mentally disabled could work. "We are rural enough that the clients have room, if they get upset, they can walk it off, if they need some time alone, and everybody does, they can go sit under a tree and think a little bit, they have the room they can do it here."

The fire has interrupted the care of 43 adults who called the farm their home. It took eight rural departments and more than 40 firefighters to stop it. They saved the surrounding buildings, but some of the residents lost all they had. Steve Lamb with the Tiawah Fire Department says, "The fire started right here on the south side. And a sharp wind made it tough to fight, though the staff tried, first with fire extinguishers, and then a garden hose. Wood shingles and all kinds of add-ons made it really hard to get too."

The conditions were ideal for the fire. Besides the dormitory style bedrooms, the laundry, kitchen and medical storage area burned. It's a total loss. But Jerry Copp says he's not out of business, not yet. The residents are his family he says. "These folks needed help, I was helping them, I was useful, they looked up to me, now I can walk in and they look at me like I'm family, which I like, I look at them like they're family too."

For now the family is scattered during the day, but spending nights at the Methodist Church in Claremore. The owner hopes to bring in some temporary buildings to bring them back together, but it will take several days at least to get that organized. As for the cause, firefighters believe it was an electrical fire, and do not suspect arson.