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La Posada Hotel Fire Texas,Technical Report

THE FIRE

The fire originated in Room 123 in the north wing of the hotel. That wing contained 22 guest rooms and two storage rooms on the first floor.

According to the room occupant's statement to fire investigators, he returned to the hotel at approximately 11:00 p.m. under the influence ofalcohol and lay down on the bed to watch television while smoking. He fell asleep and the cigarette ignited a small area of bedding. The smoke detector alarmed at approximately 1:00 a.m.

At the time of the fire only two hotel staff members, a night auditor and a janitor, were on duty. Having heard the smoke alarm from the front desk, which was located approximately 50 feet down the corridor from Room 123, the two staff members went into the corridor and determined that the alarm was in Room 123. They then went back to the desk and called that room. The occupant said everything was OK, and no further action was taken.

Approximately 15 minutes later, the occupant called the front desk to advise that there had been a fire and that there was some damage. He requested that a staff member come assess the damage so that he could make restitution. The night auditor advised that the hotel would handle the matter in the morning when the occupant checked out.

The occupant then removed the mattress from the box spring and placed the mattress vertically against the wall adjacent to the bed, leaning it against the window curtains. He then opened the window to remove the smoke

odor unknowingly providing a fresh air source to the mattress which was still smoldering. The occupant then went back to sleep on the box spring. Sometime after 4:00 a.m., the occupant was again awakened by the smoke detector and discovered flames involving the mattress and spreading to the curtains. He went outside the room leaving the door open behind him, went

to the front desk, and advised the auditor to call the fire department. He went back to the room with the janitor and a 2 ½ gallon pressurized water fire extinguisher. At this point, flames were rolling off the ceiling.

The janitor first used the extinguisher with no success. The occupantthen took the extinguisher and crawled into the room to attempt extinguishment. The extinguisher expired, and the occupant backed out leaving the door open behind him.

The fire began to extend out the doorway into the corridor.

The janitor went to the 2nd and 3rd floors and began awakening guests. Many guests came into the corridors to check the commotion. Fire was continuing to extend towards the front desk on the first floor level, and smoke was spreading throughout the corridors in the north, east, and west wings of the hotel on all three floors. On upper floors, smoke was particuarly heavy in the north and east wings having traveled primarily up the open "grand" stairway in the lobby. Glass stairway doors separatingthe other stairways from the first floor corridor remained in place forbetween five and ten minutes before failing. The hotel's assistant managerwas on the premises and was notified of the fire immediately after the Fire

Department was called. She left her room and attempted egress through aninterior stairway. Upon opening the glass door to the first floorcorridor, she was exposed to heavy smoke. Smoke spread was so rapid thatby the time she was able to return to the second floor, it too was smokefilled,and she was forced to break a window with a chair to escape to an

outside balcony.The fire department received its first notification of the fire bytelephone from the night auditor at 04:13 a.m. The first dispatch was madesending a first alarm assignment at 04:13 with the first units arriving on the scene at 04:14. Initial dispatch consisted of two engines, one truck, one rescue unit, and one Deputy Chief, a total of 11 personnel. The first unit arriving noted fire in the lobby, corridor, and the room of origin.As yet, many occupants were still unaware of the fire. Others were evacuating through smoky corridors or awaiting rescue at windows. Given the number of occupants at windows requiring rescue, the initial fire department operations were geared to ground ladder rescues. Actual firefighting was limited to one handline placed into service at the room of origin through the exterior window by a single firefighter. Later, a second handline was placed in service from the interior. Though the fire was extinguished relatively quickly, the size of the structure, the number of occupants, and the extent of smoke spread necessitated fire department operations escalating to a third-alarm.

Of the 164 guest rooms available for rental at the time of the fire, 125 were occupied. The estimated total number of occupants in the building at the time of the fire was 155-160. According to fire department reports, approximately 15 people were rescued by ground and aerial ladders, and the remainder escaped on their own or were escorted out through smoky halls and interior stairway exits by fire department personnel. The only serious injury reported was that of a woman who was fitting on a window ledge on the third floor calling for help when the fire department arrived, and either jumped or fell. Fire damage was limited to the room of origin, approximately fifty feet of corridor space in eitherdirection, and a small area at the front desk. Smoke damage was considerable throughout the north, east, and west wings

 
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