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Maintenance worker called “hero” for fast-acting work during fire at Cassville, Mo. hospital

Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 5:14 PM CST
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CASSVILLE, Mo. (KY3) - The Mercy Hospital and Clinic in Cassville remains closed after a fire on Monday causing six patients to be transferred to the nearby hospital in Aurora.

No date has been set yet for the facility to be reopened, but a maintenance worker there is being credited for keeping the situation from being worse than it was thanks to his quick action.

No one was injured in the fire.

On Tuesday some yellow tape around the entrances and workers in the halls doing repairs were the only major signs there’d been a fire in the building as only about a quarter of the facility had any damage from the fire that started in an HVAC unit on the building’s roof.

”The verbal report is that it was accidental and did start in that HVAC unit,” explained Valerie Davis, the Mercy Administrator for both the Cassville and Aurora facilities.  “That is a newer unit about four years old. The damage is primarily contained in a back hallway between the hospital and the clinic. We did have one in-patient room that had some fire and smoke damage and there is some water damage in the med surgery unit.”

”It was a wild day but the administration and the staff around here jumped in like storm troopers,” said Donnie Dodson, a maintenance technician who played a key role in that reaction.

The staff quickly responded by getting the six patients in the hospital out safely and Dodson, after making sure patients and staff were being taken care of, was the first to attack the blaze by grabbing fire extinguishers and climbing to the ice-covered roof by himself.

”I went and tied one (extinguisher) on a rope and carried another one up my ladder,” he said.  “The breathing was a little rough at first because it makes a toxic smoke. The flames were about three-to-four feet-high but the chemical was working well. I just didn’t have enough of it up there.”

”That initial action saved a lot of the building and potentially people,” Davis said.  “Then fire (department) arrived on scene and helped extinguish the fire.”

Donnie’s quick action and disregard for his own safety has him being called a hero.

”I’m 57 years-old,” Dodson said with a shrug. “I’m old school. If it’s got to be done I just do it.”

For now the ER at this critical care until is still closed but an ambulance and ER staff remain at the facility in case patients need to be treated and/or transferred.

”Our clinic is providing care to those patients at a multitude of locations,” Davis said. “Shell Knob, Monett, they’re still continuing to care for all those patients. It’s just in a different physical space.”

And while there was no major structural damage to the facility built in the 1950′s and taken over by Mercy in 2001, the assessment is still ongoing.

”We’ve got inspections going on now of our electrical system, our fire panel, our medical gas,” Davis said.  “All those patient care and infrastructure items.”

As of Tuesday evening no date has been set for reopening.

”Our priority right now is getting the emergency room open and to provide emergency care to the community,” David said.  “The clinic is a huge piece of that too as they provide so much acute care as well. We’re hoping we can open the clinic, ER and outpatient areas all together. Our med surge unit will be opened a little later than the rest of the facility due to the damage that was sustained in that one room.”

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