Code Violations Found in Massive Fla. Motel Fire

KISSIMMEE, Fla. --

A day after a massive fire destroyed an extended-stay motel near Walt Disney World, more than 100 displaced families search for answers.

The fire broke out Sunday night at the Vacation Lodge Maingate on U.S. Highway 192, and families who once lived in the motel are struggling to find a place to live. Eight people suffered fire-related injuries but none was seriously injured.

Seth Petrone, who lived at the motel, said its a confusing situation, considering his family not only lost their home, but also their only source of income.

Petrones dad, John, was the manager at the motel, and he kicked down doors to make sure residents got out of the burning building.

Now were waiting to go to the Red Cross, see if they can help us, said Janice Ratcliffe, Seth's stepmother.

All 450 units either burned to the ground or were so badly gutted by flames that they are no longer livable. There was so much heat energy in the inferno that the fire leaped from building to building and only stopped when there was nothing left to burn, fire officials said.

I dont care about our TV or PlayStation, but the stuff I care about I cant replace. You hear about those house fires and apartment fires and feel so bad, but you have no idea what its like until it happens to you, Radcliffe said.

Their story mirrors that of many of the other residents who treated the motel as their home. To accommodate them, the American Red Cross set up a shelter at Celebration High School. More than 120 residents have checked in.

The Red Cross is providing former residents from the now-destroyed motel with food and money for months stay at a hotel and clothes.

Four organizations are collecting donation items to be given to the fire victims: Community of Faith Church in Davenport; Community Presbyterian Church in Celebration; Celebration Foundation in Celebration; and Rock Church in Kissimmee.

As families struggle to get their lives back together, firefighters believe they may be getting closer to discovering the cause of the fire.

Officials believe there may have been code violations that put guests lives at risk.

The fire alarm was working, but the motel was cited for six different fire code violations last month, according to Osceola County Code Enforcement.

The motel was fined $900 a day for things like not monitoring the sprinkler system, broken exit lights and missing fire extinguishers. All together, the Vacation Lodge owed Osceola County $23,400 in fire code violations.

The motel manager said he was hired a month ago to clean up the property by kicking out guests who didnt pay their rent, renovate the buildings and fix all the fire code violations.

He said they just bought new signs and extinguishers, but they were all stolen or vandalized.

Firefighters still need more time to figure out what caused the fire because theyre waiting for the ruins to cool down.

Security guard Sam Shoucair said the fire was started by a man in room 2301 who was either drunk or high and had to be rescued from his room.

He was just very incoherent so I finally had to grab him, I started pulling him toward me and I lost him. The fire just came out of the room right over my head and it burnt my shirt, Shoucair said.

Eventually Shoucair was able to rescue him and turn him over to deputies. Several other guests were rescued, even if it meant kicking in doors to get them out.

So far, the Osceola County Sheriffs Office hasnt made any arrests.

The man the security guard took down is still in the hospital, the fire marshal plans to interview him.

The security guard is certain there must have been some sort of flammable chemicals inside the unit because it is unreal how quickly the fire blew up into a fireball.

Copyright 2011 by Internet Broadcasting Systems and ClickOrlando.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Loading