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Missoula group home residents evacuated after Labor Day fire finally return home

Published On: Apr 29 2013 06:06:20 PM MDT   Updated On: Apr 29 2013 06:36:46 PM MDT
MISSOLA, Mont. -

It's a happy day for clients and staff displaced from a group home fire in Missoula last September.

The Tulip Lane home for developmentally disabled adults burned on Labor Day. The cause of the fire was a cigarette butt that an employee had left burning, thinking it was out.

No one was injured but it cost the insurance company $500,000 in damage.

On Monday afternoon, residents went back to a newly renovated house.

Jackie has been looking forward to this day for almost 8 months. She's home, really home.

"I like it," she said.

The Tulip Lane house in the Rattlesnake, looks a lot different than it did last Labor Day. Fire raced up an outside fence, eating up a great deal of the house, and staining the rest with smoke and soot. Now everything looks brand new.

"It's just beautiful inside," said Missoula Developmental Service Corporation human resources director Karen Harrison.

Movers hauled every treasured possession in carefully.

Most clients have been living in an alternative group home on the other side of town since the fire. Staff said that house was nice, but it was more crowded, and less convenient.

"It's the transition of losing their home," said MDSC's director of services, Vasa Parsons, "and trying to cope with the changes in their environment."

Since the fire, MDSC instituted a policy change. Nobody can smoke on breaks anymore. In fact, nobody can smoke at all.

"You are taking everybody's lives in your hands," said Harrison, "and it's a huge responsibility for everyone, and I think maybe that hit home for us. I hope it just makes us a better team."