LAKELAND, Fla. -- More than 100 elderly residents were displaced from a Lakeland assisted living facility Tuesday after an electrical fire started on the building's roof and smoke spread to the floors below

  • Fire happened at 400 South Florida Avenue
  • All residents, employees accounted for
  • About 90 residents taken to RP Funding Center

The fire broke out before 1 p.m. at the building at 400 South Florida Ave. Black smoke could be seen for miles around the facility.

The blaze was quickly brought under control, but because of the size of the building and age of its residents, there were evacuations.

"We had to search floor by floor, making sure they could all get out," said Lakeland Fire Department's Janel Vasallo. "Many of them have mobility issues and health problems, so that complicated the evacuation."

All 128 residents and 30 employees of the Lake Morton Plaza were evacuated and accounted for.

Two residents and two employees were transported to Lakeland Regional Health by Polk County Fire Rescue to be checked for smoke inhalation.

Ninety residents were taken by public transit to the RP Funding Center, a task which itself presented challenges.

"In our big buses we can accommodate walkers and people who can walk on their own," said Erin Killebrew with Citrus Connection. "The problem for us is that we can normally only get two to four wheelchairs in our para-transit buses, so now we have to bring more buses in to be able to get all those people out quickly and efficiently.

Officials said alternative accommodations at other senior living facilities were made by Lake Morton Plaza Management within a few hours. 

The fire department is now using gas monitors to make sure the air quality in the building is ok. 

Property managers for the facility, meanwhile, told us they're assessing the situation and the damage to the building. There currently is no air conditioning in the facility, so it's uncertain when residents will be able to move back in.