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Fire at Sheraton sends guests fleeing into the wintery night


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The fire alarm was of little concern to Christian P. Kai, but the slamming doors and loud voices coming from the hallway caught his attention.

The 29-year-old crew member for SkyWest Airlines was among 70-some travelers forced into the cold night air when a fire broke out Tuesday at the Four Points Sheraton, 4960 Towne Centre in Saginaw Township.

"I stay in hotels a lot, and alarms go off once in a while," Kai said. "I didn't think it was anything special. But then I looked into the hall and my co-workers were running for the stairs and yelling, 'It's for real."'

Dressed in gym shorts and a T-shirt, Kai grabbed shirts and his coat and followed the rest of the fifth-floor guests out of the building. A resident of Tampa, Fla., where the temperature hovered around 80 degrees last week, Kai was ill-prepared for the Michigan weather.

"It's unbearably cold," he said.

The commotion started about 8:50 p.m. when flames erupted in an electrical panel serving the hotel's heating system, said Saginaw Township Fire Chief Richard G. Powell.

Although the fire was small, it generated a lot of smoke that shot up the elevator shaft and filled the fifth and sixth floors of the 156-room inn.

About 57 rooms were occupied, a hotel spokesman said.

"Everything went very smoothly," said Jeff D. Phillips of Bay City, the Four Points' front desk manager.

The hotel's fire alert system automatically telephoned each room with a recorded evacuation advisory that also was broadcast over speakers in the halls.

A hotel employee, Eean Lee of Zilwaukee, ran from floor to floor to help alert guests of the danger, Phillips said.

No one was injured, although Lee suffered minor smoke inhalation, Powell said.

The chief estimated the value of the fire damage at a few thousand dollars. The hotel also lost revenue when managers had to relocate guests to other inns.

"We had to have the power to the building shut off so we could determine the exact location of the problem," Powell said.

Electricity was restored late Tuesday but the heat was to remain off through Wednesday to allow repair crews to work on the system, the chief said.

Kai said the fire likely also would cause a delay in SkyWest's flight from MBS International Airport to Chicago early today. Federal Aviation Administration rules require that airline crews have eight to 12 hours of rest between flights, depending on how many consecutive days the crews have worked.

"Safety first," he said.

 
 
 
   
 
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