Whitefish Nursing Home Resident Died Before Blaze

By Beacon Staff

WHITEFISH – An investigation into a Christmas Eve fire at a Whitefish nursing home concluded that a 93-year-old resident died of natural causes before her lit cigarette set her apartment on fire, authorities said Tuesday.

Mae Thompson was found deceased in her Mountain View Manor apartment Saturday after firefighters responding to a fire alarm at about 7:30 p.m. saw smoke coming from beneath the door of one of the nursing home’s apartments.

An autopsy Tuesday found that Thompson died of natural causes, said Flathead County sheriff and coroner Chuck Curry.

Thompson had been smoking a cigarette at the time of her death, and that caused the fire, Curry said.

The blaze was confined to the area immediately around Thompson, and the building’s fire suppression system prevented it from spreading to any of the other apartments, he said.

Nobody else was injured, but other Mountain View Manor residents were moved temporarily to Calvary Chapel in a chaotic Christmas Eve scene.

Elderly people milled about in the sleet outside the building in wheelchairs and on walkers, Whitefish police officer Chris McWhirter told the Missoulian newspaper.

McWhirter, who attends Cavalry Chapel and has a key, suggested using the church two blocks away as a command post and a way to get the residents out of the cold.

Ambulance crews from Whitefish and Kalispell set up a staging area at the church and checked vital signs of those arriving, he said. People from the Red Cross showed up, and family members arrived from holiday parties to help.

“It was a great testament to the community,” McWhirter said. “Everybody came out together. It was during their Christmas dinners with their families, but they set that aside and instead went out and helped out the first responders and all the victims.”

The church stayed open until about 11 p.m., he said.