Hotel fire causes small stir

No one injured during incident that starts in commercial dryer

By GRANT BOXLEITNER , gboxleitner@news-press.com
Published by news-press.com on November 28, 2003


A fire that started in a commercial dryer forced the evacuation of guests Thursday night at the Holiday Inn Riverwalk Hotel & Marina, Fort Myers fire officials said.

“It wasn’t a big fire, but it was enough to smoke up the place pretty good,” said Fort Myers fire Capt. Trenton Bowen. “When we arrived, the hallway was filled with smoke from top to bottom.”

There were no injuries reported, although hotel officials had to move a woman who suffers from asthma into another room because of heavy smoke.

Fire crews blamed the fire on a gas-powered commercial dryer in a housekeeping and maintenance room on the ground floor. Flames were seen shooting from the dryer before firefighters doused it and disconnected the gas, Bowen said.

The fire call came at about 6:10 p.m.

Hotel owners representative John P. Gregory said a maintenance worker spotted the fire, called 911 and began pounding on guest-room doors, telling people to go outside.

The hotel has 146 rooms and was about 40-percent occupied at the time of the fire, Gregory said.

“The fire department was here in a matter of minutes. We’re really pleased with the response time,” Gregory said.

Hotel guests Mary Veefkind, and Robert Veefkind smelled smoke as they were watching the Miami Dolphins football game and got a tap on the door by a hotel employee.

“They (employees) were very efficient,” Mary Veefkind said.

Lee County paramedic Kevin Stephens said EMS personnel checked some employees and guests as a precaution.

Fire crews blew fans and cracked windows to dissipate the smoke.

The exact cause of the fire is under investigation. Guests were able to return to their rooms about 30 minutes after the small fire was extinguished. Those in about 20 rooms nearest the smoke will not be billed for their Thursday stay, hotel officials said.

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