"They were all just hysterical," said Mary Hamm, whose mother works at the facility. "They don't really know, but they did one time they think it might have started in one of the resident's rooms."
Five different fire departments were called to the scene. Authorities say the fire started in a patient's room from what might have been a cigarette.
"We found the origin of where the fire did start in that room," Toisnot Fire Chief Lin Jones said. "That's what we suspect, possibly somebody could be smoking. It hasn't been confirmed that that's what it was, but it's what we suspect at this point."
There were not any reports of serious injuries, but some people were taken to the hospital with minor injuries.
"No burns, no cuts, nothing major," Toisnot Fire Chief Lin Jones said. "Everybody was released and sent home."
Most of the 50 people living in the facility lost their possessions in the inferno as it gutted the building. One of the front wings of the building was destroyed, while the other wings suffered smoke and water damage.
"It's either burned up or heavy water damage that was there," Jones said. "Because basically, they got the people out, didn't worry about trying to get others stuff."
The residents were taken to First Baptist Church in Elm City. Church members opened the church along with the Red Cross to assist patients and staff with finding them shelter in similar facilities, located in Wilson and Rocky Mount.
Wilson County authorities say a day care center and the school system also helped out after the fire. A school bus with a wheelchair lift was used to move some of the patients.