Lawyers: Water to sprinkler system off night of nursing home fire

A sign at the Barclay Friends nursing home promises an April re-opening. In fact, its parent company says some elderly are returning this week, but just as the West Chester facility begins to open there's more bad news about the fatal fire.

"This is a breach of trust that keeps on getting worse, worse and worse," Robert Mongeluzzi, an attorney for the Malloy family said.

According to lawyers representing victims' families, federal investigators have found a wheel or valve controlling water to the nursing home's sprinkler system was closed.

"The valve was in a shut-off position. We're trying to find out who shut it off and why," Mongeluzzi said.

The lawyers say they received word of a closed valve from an engineer working for the nursing home who was told by investigators with Federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (the ATF) of their findings.

Attorneys believe a warning system for the sprinklers gave a false reading that the water was on.

"We still grieve for the families who lost loved ones in the fire," Larry Elveru with Kendal Corporation said.

A spokesperson for the Kennett Square-based parent company says they've not received the ATF's final report, but argues Barclay Friends was focused on safety.

"We feel confident that we've followed all of the standards established by both the state and federal government. We're in compliance with all of those," Elveru said.

Four elderly tenants died of smoke inhalation when flames tore through the rear of the facility the night of November 16th.

Nearly five months later and big questions about the fire remain.

"They struck out and it cost Theresa Malloy her life," Mongeluzzi said.

A spokesperson for the ATF declined comment but wrote she expected a final report in the coming weeks. The inquirer first reported this story. Kendal Corp. is a non-profit running quaker-based homes in several states.