Historic Mass. Hotel Destroyed in Six-Alarm Blaze

Nov. 25--Lives have miraculously been spared, but several properties housing dozens of people have been lost to major fires across the state this holiday weekend.

The latest occurred early this morning on Cape Cod, where the former Stonehorse Motor Lodge on Route 28 in South Harwich was leveled by a "suspicious" three-alarm conflagration that set off brush fires and saw emergency responders battling icy conditions, as well.

"It was a total firestorm," said Harwich Deputy Fire Chief Kent Farrenkopf. "We ran into a few problems with cold temperatures. It got pretty nasty pretty quick. We floated a lot of water. It was a high-volume fire."

Farrenkopf said the two-story motel was "a total loss." He said it has been abandoned for at least two years, prior to which it was used only to house seasonal workers.

"It's been boarded up and broken into and boarded up again, windows smashed," he said.

Farrenkopf said the fire was discovered shortly before 1:30 a.m. by a passer-by. When the first crews arrived on scene, half the wooden structure was already in flames, he said. Firefighters from Brewster, Dennis, Chatham, Orleans and Yarmouth rushed to assist.

Farrenkopf said it was unclear whether any squatters were using the building. A cadaver-sniffing dog was brought to the scene by state police. "We searched the best we could," he said. "Hopefully, nothing like that will come of it.

Farrenkopf said the fire "is suspicious." The state Fire Marshal's Office is helping with the investigation. Anyone with information is urged to call Harwich police at 508-430-7546.

Icing also made for dicey conditions at a six-alarm fire at Leominster's historic downtown Columbia Hotel late last night that will likely require the turn-of-the-century property be razed, Leominster Deputy Fire Chief Gary J. Ranno said today. Ranno said the blaze, which resulted in minor injuries to two firefighters from Westminster, started about 11 p.m. last night and wasn't brought under control until 4 a.m. this morning. Part of the building collapsed.

"We don't have a cause yet," Ranno said. "Right now it's not considered suspicious."

Ranno said the three-story Columbia occupied an entire city block on Main Street. In its heyday, he said the Columbia was a railroad-stop hotel. It currently housed 28 single-room apartments. Fourteen adult were displaced, according to the Red Cross.

Five families, meanwhile, including eight children, were driven out of a burning apartment building on Second Street in Lowell yesterday morning. No injuries were reported.

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