Fire heavily damaged one room and caused one minor injury at the Holiday Inn on South Rock Road late Wednesday morning.
Alarms began sounding at about 11:30 a.m. at the hotel at 549 S. Rock Road, just south of Kellogg.
The fire broke out in Room 419, which was unoccupied, Fire Capt. Stuart Bevis said. Crews arrived to see smoke and flames pouring out of the fourth-floor room.
But the hotel’s sprinkler system kept the fire contained to that room, Fire Marshal Brad Crisp said, and the only injury was to a hotel employee, who received treatment from an emergency medical services crew.
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The employee, who declined to give his name in the parking lot, said he had suffered some smoke inhalation.
Most of the people who work or were staying at the hotel had already evacuated when fire crews arrived on the scene, Crisp said.
“Everyone evacuated in a pretty thorough manner,” he said.
A total of 55 people evacuated because of the fire, Bevis said: 30 lodgers and 25 employees.
An electrical malfunction in the room’s heating/air conditioning unit ignited the fire, which spread to the drapes. That set off an alarm and one of two sprinkler heads in the room, which kept the fire under control.
Damage estimate was set at $200,000, Bevis said, but it could increase.
“We do have smoke damage throughout the fourth into the fifth floor, and water damage from the fourth floor down,” Crisp said.
It’s unclear at this point how the fire will affect the hotel’s operations.
“They’re going to have to deal with some issues,” he said.
Ashley Thomas had to deal with being rousted out of her comfortable bed into a cold December morning.
“I heard the alarm go off and after a while there was a guy banging on our doors telling us there was a fire,” said Thomas, 22, who was in a room on the sixth floor. “I was in my bed listening to music thinking about taking another nap before I go to work.
“When we got outside we saw flames coming out,” said Thomas, who hurried out dressed in pajama pants, a T-shirt and two pink curlers in her hair. “But in the hotel I didn’t smell anything or hear anybody screaming. I thought it was a false alarm.”
Social workers from around the state had gathered for a conference on the first floor of the hotel — only for the fire alarm to disrupt proceedings.
“We thought it might be a drill until we walked over to the Long John Silvers and saw the fire coming out” of the hotel windows, said Colleen Winkel, who lives in Pratt.
Jason Byler of Hesston said he saw pieces of metal falling from what he assumed was a heating or air-conditioning unit on the fourth floor.
“Nobody seemed scared at all,” Byler said of the people evacuating the hotel as he watched a firefighter on an elevated platform.
“They were out here very fast,” he said of the fire crews. “ I’m glad I’m not that guy up there in the cherry picker, though. I would be having a first-class heart attack.”
High-rise fires are always troubling for firefighters because of the potential for significant loss of life, Crisp said. Considering what could have happened, he said, “the outcome is a really good one. We got the fire under control quickly and nobody was really injured.”