Metro-East News

67-year-old charged with aggravated arson after nursing home fire

A 67-year-old Alhambra woman reportedly told authorities Wednesday night that she started a fire inside a nursing home that resulted in at least 10 displaced patients and at least one reported injury.

The Madison County Sheriff’s Office identified the woman as Linda J. Braun. Braun was charged with aggravated arson on Thursday in connection to the reported fire at Hitz Memorial Home, located at 201 Belle St. in Alhambra.

The Alhambra Fire Department was dispatched at approximately 9 p.m. Wednesday to a fire at Hitz Memorial Home, according to Capt. T. Mike Dixon. The fire was contained to two inner rooms within the nursing home, and was extinguished by the facility’s fire sprinkler system. Authorities said the damage to the two rooms affected by the fire was extensive. In addition to the damage caused by the fire, 13 additional rooms within the nursing home — including a common room, offices and patient rooms — suffered “serious smoke and water damage.”

Dixon said 10 nursing home patients were displaced from their rooms due to the incident. According to the press release, Hitz Memorial Home has made accommodations for those patients whose rooms were affected by the fire and are working to recover from the incident.

One employee of the nursing home suffered minor smoke inhalation while clearing patients from the affected area, Dixon said. The female employee was treated at the scene by first responders and is expected to make a full recovery.

Shortly after 10 p.m. Wednesday, Dixon said the Illinois State Police received a call from a resident of the independent living portion of Hitz Memorial Home who reported that she had started the fire. That caller was identified as Linda J. Braun. Sheriff’s deputies responded to the scene and met with fire department personnel, as well as staff members of Hitz Memorial Home who had already spoken with Braun. According to the sheriff’s office, staff members told the responding deputies that Braun confessed to having deliberately started the fire.

Deputies met with Braun and developed probable cause for her arrest. Braun allegedly told deputies she started the fire because she was angry that staff members were trying to boss her around. Braun told the investigating deputy that she started the fire in an empty room and didn’t intend to hurt anyone.

Braun was transported to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office for more interviews, then moved to the Madison County Jail.

Although Braun is an occupant of the independent living section of the facility, the fire was actually set in the nursing home, the press release stated. The independent living section of the facility was not affected by the fire, and no occupants of either portion of the facility were injured as a result of this incident.

Authorities said it is too early to provide an estimated cost of repairs, but it is expected to be “substantial.”

The warrant and criminal information was issued by Judge Richard Tognarelli, who set Braun’s bail amount at $250,000.