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Avista Adventist Hospital cleaning up after it was spared by Marshall Fire

There is no timeline for when the hospital will reopen, but crews are cleaning in and around the hospital after it took smoke and soot from the fire.

LOUISVILLE, Colo. — Natalie Ingmire knows exactly where she was when she saw the flames of the Marshall Fire approaching Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville. 

"So this room right here – 134 and 135 is where we actually saw the flames out the window," she said Thursday as she stood in the hospital's now-empty intensive care unit.

As the hospital's Director of Quality and Facilities, she's also in charge of launching the hospital into a stage of "incident command," which she almost immediately did, and began the evacuation process. 

“Just going through the process, and it’s our job to protect everybody and keep everybody safe," she said. 

The hospital's CEO, Isaac Sendros, said he had the day off and was on his way to Eldora Mountain for some skiing with his family.

"Next thing you know, as I'm driving and I make it to Nederland, I get a call from Natalie saying 'we're opening up the command center.' And I quickly turned around. And by the time I made it through the canyons, the fire was progressing," he recalled. "I saw everyone in the emergency room and said I'm going to pop in my office and see what the situation looked like in the back field. Smoke was everywhere at that moment. I had not seen flames just yet, but within minutes that changed."

Credit: Luis de Leon
Workers clean the inside of Avista Adventist Hospital on Thursday.

As the flames approached, those in the hospital started to leave, in an evacuation process organized by hospital wing. 

"So we started with our NICU babies, the neonatal intensive care unit," Sendros said, adding the rest of the babies were then taken out of the building. "Followed by our ICU patients. Med-surg was next, and so was our emergency department patients."

Patients were evacuated through a set of doors in the emergency department, and into ambulances. 

In total, 51 patients were evacuated, along with around 100 staff members.

According to a Centura Health spokesperson, 21 of the patients were able to be discharged home. Thirty were transferred to other Centura hospitals. 

The hospital was spared, but took on a lot of smoke, soot and other debris.

"Health care has been very hard over the last two years through this pandemic. They have sacrificed over the last few years, putting themselves at risk to care for others. Last week was another example of health care workers putting others first and themselves second," Sendros said about his team. 

Credit: Luis de Leon
Beds fill a side room to the lobby of Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville, Colorado, in order to properly clean rooms and equipment.

The flames came within feet of the building, particularly the liquid oxygen tanks outside. Sendros said they're reassessing what to do about the tanks' location. 

"I can't see it as anything other than a miracle. What's hard for me to wrap my head around is that we were spared and the neighbors we've been serving for the last 31 years have not been. I can't. I don't understand that, but we can't wait to reopen so we can continue to serve those who are who are needing healing," Sendros said. 

The hospital has not opened back up since, as maintenance crews now fill the hospital to clean and repair the building. 

For starters, Ingmire said, there are 200 air scrubbers filtering the air to clean out particulates of smoke and ash that may have gotten in the hospital.

Credit: Luis de Leon
Workers clean the inside of Avista Adventist Hospital.

“When we came in the first day after, it was double inside what it was outside, so we’ve made significant progress in the last five days," she said. 

Hospital beds and equipment have been emptied out of the rooms so everything, including the equipment, can be properly cleaned. 

Overnight Thursday, crews plan to replace the ceiling tiles in the Emergency Department, due to concerns that the ceiling may have taken in smoke and ash. 

As of Thursday, Sendros said there is no set timeline yet for when the hospital could reopen, but they're hoping to do so in the near future and as safely as possible. 

"There's parts of me where I'm beyond proud of this team and what they accomplished. There's another part of me, my heart breaks for our associates who've lost their homes and for the community that we serve. I feel fortunate that we're still here and we're standing, and that we get to continue to serve this community," he said. 

In the meantime, he said employees are now spread throughout other hospitals for work.

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