FORT LAUDERDALE -- Someone tried to set fire to a half-century-old hotel on the north side of Fort Lauderdale's beach early Sunday morning, but the fire gutted only three of the resort's 22 rooms and no one was hurt in the blaze, said Division Chief Stephen McInerny of the Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue Department.
The Amber Tides Motel, built in the 1950s, had two major fire-safety problems: only one of the smoke detectors in the second story building at 3040 N. Ocean Drive activated after the blaze started on the first floor, and a stack of mattresses piled up on the east side of the building gave the arsonist an effective fuel to start the fire, McInerny said.
About 40 people had been staying at the hotel when the fire started about 5:46 a.m. Sunday. Three rooms -- including Room 21, which was adjacent to the mattresses outside -- were completely destroyed. Another two rooms were blackened by smoke. Six adults and two children had been staying in the five rooms, according to a hotel manager. Volunteers from the Broward County chapter of the American Red Cross were helping the people find shelter, McInerny said.
The blaze spread through the rooms' ceilings, making it difficult to douse, McInerny said. It took nearly 20 minutes to get the fire under control, he said. A band of Fort Lauderdale police officers helped the guests evacuate.
"It could have been a much more serious situation," McInerny said.
Fire inspectors and police detectives continue to investigate the cause of the blaze. Anyone with information is asked to call the Fort Lauderdale Police Department at 954-828-5700 or Broward Crimestoppers at 954-493-TIPS.