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Fire breaks out at Colorado. resort hotel


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VAIL, Colorado. - A fire that burned more than five hours was contained early yesterday after forcing the evacuation of scores of guests at a
350-room ski resort hotel, authorities said.

Two firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation or exhaustion, but no other injuries were reported. The cause of the blaze was not immediately known. Fire Chief John Gulick estimated damage at $20 million.

Guests complained of confusion during the evacuation.

An alarm went off at Marriott's Vail Mountain Resort hotel at about 8:45 p.m. Saturday, said Suzanne Silverthorn, a spokeswoman for thecity.

Authorities immediately evacuated 83 guests from the burning building and 33 from a neighboring building, she said. The hotel is
composed of three separate structures.

Firefighters declared the fire controlled by 2:40 a.m. yesterday.

Silverthorn said everyone had been accounted for. The hotel, which had opened for the ski season on Wednesday, was about 50 percent full, and the guests who were evacuated were relocated to rooms in other buildings.

Gulick said the fire consumed exterior balconies and siding on the fifth and sixth floors, though much of the interior was intact. Water caused damage on the fifth and six floors and collapsed parts of the fourth-floor ceiling, he said.

Some guests, like Jim Gaddis of Atlanta, were not happy with the way the hotel handled the situation.

"I was a firefighter for years, and this was an absolute farce," he said. "They had no idea what was going on. Not a single employee knew what they were doing."

Gaddis and his wife, Tricia, said they were in their rooms watching TV when smoke alarms went off. They went to the first floor, where they said they were told by hotel employees that a guest had left his fireplace flue open and it was safe to go back to their rooms.

But Tricia Gaddis said that they decided to stay on the first floor.

"Then all the guests started coming down, and they shifted us to the lobby (in another adjacent building) and then to the basement," she said.

Then, she said, police told everyone to go outside while hotel employees told guests to go to a second-floor restaurant.

Sara Beth Hill of Kingsport, Tenn., and her friend, Ashlee Mayne of Denver, said they were shuffled from place to place, eventually ending up in the smoke-filled restaurant on the second floor.

"They told us we couldn't leave," Hill said. "The hotel manager said, 'nobody's going outside. It's too cold.'"

At about 10:15, they said they sneaked outside, Mayne with only a pair of slippers to cover her feet.

Marriott General Manager David Shahriari said hotel employees handled the situation as best they could, and that police, fire and hotel officials were consistent in directing guests to the restaurant.

Meanwhile, a wine auction in the smoky ballroom on the first floor proceeded without distraction. Auction handlers reportedly closed the drapes midway through the event to block out the flashing lights outside.

This fully sprinklered, seven-story building isexposed by combustible nonsprinklered wooddecks attached to each room, forming a non sprinklered combustible exposure hazard surrounding the noncombustible sprinklered hotel building.Investigators say this fifth floor chimney fire started because the metal chimney piping (inside a fire-rated chase) came apart. After the flue pipeseparated, a normal fireplace wood fire, started in asecond floor fireplace, escaped from the chimney's vent pipe, eventually burnt through the chase and spread to the wood roof structure. Smoke from the fire also spread into an unsprinklered(noncombustible) concealed space above the fifth floor ceiling. The gases above the ceiling heated until they "exploded", blowing the ceiling drywall and top of the wall drywall from many rooms on the fifth floor. Also burning debris from the building's combustible siding and unsprinklered wood decks above fell onto the wood decks below.

Multiple simultaneous fires spread from the decksthrough the glass sliding doors into the sprinklerprotected rooms. Some 31 sprinklers activated invarious hotel rooms.

 

This photo shows vertical drywall near the fifth floor ceiling that was also blown off by smoke explosionin the unsprinklered plenum space above the ceiling This photo shows a fused sprinkler head below asoffit in a fifth floor hotel room
The sprinkler system functioned very well for what it was designed for. However the sprinkler system was not designed to fight multiple simultaneous exposure fires originating outside of the room
The fire at the Marriott Vail Mountain Resort was ruled accidental Tuesday by fire department and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms officials.

The fire started in the chimney of a wood-burning fireplace on Saturday and burned for more than three hours before it was detected.

No guests were injured but two firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion and another for smoke inhalation.

The fire caused $12 million to $20 million in damage and destroyed 116 of the hotel's 350 rooms, general manager David Shahriari said.
Hotel officials have banned the use of all fireplaces.

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