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
composed of three separate structures.
Firefighters declared the fire controlled by 2:40 a.m.
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
"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
"They told us we couldn't leave," Hill said.
"The hotel manager said, 'nobody's going outside. It's
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.