Highland News Leader

Police: Resident upset over being ‘bossed around’ set fire to Alhambra nursing home

Linda J. Braun
Linda J. Braun Provided image

A disgruntled resident is accused of setting a fire at an Alhambra nursing home Wednesday that ended up displacing 10 residents but, luckily, did not injure anyone.

“The bottom line is we are very fortunate we didn’t lose anyone,” said Capt. Mike Dixon, chief of detectives for the Madison County Sheriff’s Department.

According to the sheriff’s office, Linda J. Braun, 67, a resident of of the independent living portion of Hitz Memorial Home, located at 201 Belle St. in Alhambra, intentionally set the fire because she was angry over staff members “trying to boss her around.”

“From what I understand, there may have been some issues with her behavior,” Dixon said.

When staff addressed those issues with her, Braun allegedly became angry.

“That got her upset to the point where she set this fire intentionally,” Dixon said.

Firefighters were called to Hitz around 8:45 p.m. on May 11. Alhambra Fire Chief Alan Daiber said the fire was started in a storage room in the south wing of the nursing home portion of the complex.

The fire itself extensively damaged two inner rooms. However, sprinklers were able to douse the flames before they spread very far, Daiber said.

“The sprinkler system did its job… Nobody got hurt, thank God,” Daiber said.

But at least 13 other rooms within the nursing home — including a common room offices, and patients rooms — suffered extensive smoke and water damage. The independent living section of the facility, where Braun lived, was not affected by the fire.

There is no cost estimate yet to the damage at the nursing home, but it is expected to be substantial. A Hitz staff member reached by phone said they had no comment and referred all questions to the sheriff’s office.

Dixon said Braun allegedly threw matches into a bag on a chair in the storage room then “walked away when it caught fire.”

Firefighters were on the scene until about midnight.

At around 10 p.m., Braun allegedly called Illinois State Police and confessed that she had started the fire. Madison County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to the scene and met with fire department personnel, as well as staff members of Hitz Memorial Home, who had allegedly already spoken with Braun.

According to the sheriff’s office, Hitz staff members also told the responding deputies that Braun confessed to having deliberately started the fire.

Braun allegedly told the investigating deputy that she started the fire in an empty room and didn’t intend to hurt anyone.

“This was just a poor decision by this person (Braun),” Dixon said.

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

One employee of the nursing home suffered minor smoke inhalation while clearing patients from the affected area.

“She did so at the cost of her personal safety,” Dixon said.

The female employee was treated and released from the scene by first responders and is expected to make a full recovery.

Braun was charged with one count of aggravated arson. Her bond was set at $250,000.