NICHOLAS COUNTY. Ky. (WKYT) - A sign outside of the Johnson Mathers Nursing Home reminds everyone it's a "no smoking" facility. Late Saturday night smoke was more than just a concern, it was a major problem.
"We found smoke in one of the rooms in the nursing home area," stated Fire Chief Jim Biddle. "We found paper towels and trash bags wadded up in the ceiling. Somebody had lit them and tried to set it on fire."
WKYT has learned that a warrant was issued charging Michael Thomas, of Bracken county, in the case. He is charged with First Degree Arson, a felony charge. Thomas is a former employee of the nursing home.
Anotyher employee put the fire out. The ceiling tiles are fire retardant which kept the flames from spreading. Still for Biddle, the whole thing felt suspicious.
"This area of the hospital, that it was in, is a secured area mainly for Alzheimer's patients," he said, adding that there are 14 patients in the wing, "You have to have a code to get in that area, or someone has to let you in."
Even more suspicious, it was in an empty room that was being remodeled.
"In order for somebody to get up in the ceiling they had to climb up on top of the dresser, and the employees at the nursing home said the patients are not able to climb at all. It had to be either a visitor or an employee and at that time of night, there's no visitors in that area."
The director of the nursing home did not want to go on camera, but she told me Thomas has since been terminated from his job at the nursing home.
"It's very frustrating that somebody intentionally sets a fire, especially in a nursing home where you have 90-something patients that can't get out on their own."
The patients were moved from that wing to another. There were no injuries and only minor damage, but the threat was much bigger.
"It wasn't no accident. It was very intentional," said the Fire Chief.
The Kentucky State Police are handling the case.