Victoria Inn sustains heavy damage in pre-dawn fire Thursday

Monday, May 23, 2005

EUREKA SPRINGS -- Forty-four firefighters from four fire departments battled a blaze at the Victoria Inn before dawn Thursday and rescued several stranded occupants from the building's third-floor balcony.

Damage to the 90-room hotel, located on the east side of Eureka Springs near the junction of U.S. Highway 62 and Passion Play Road, was confined mainly to the lobby and office area at front of the building, according to Eureka Springs Fire Chief and Fire Marshal Jim Kelley. Smoke damage was extensive, he said.

Firemen contained the blaze in less than an hour.

Victoria Inn's General Manager Sam Ray made a 911 call for help at 4:08 a.m. after he smelled smoke and discovered flames in the lobby. Before firefighters arrived, Ray and his wife, Brenda, began waking the inn's guests and evacuating them.

Firefighters responded to the alarm from Eureka Springs, Holiday Island, Grassy Knob and Inspiration Point.

Ray said that a number of occupants had been stranded on the upper floors by heavy smoke in the hallways.

Elton Stewart, CEO of M & S Health Care Inc. d.b.a. Victorian Inn, said the fire department responded "very quickly. People were standing on the balcony waiting to be rescued because the hallways were filled with solid smoke."

"Upon our arrival, the initial attack on the fire was in the office/lobby area. We were notified that there were six to seven occupants on the third floor balcony that needed to be rescued," stated Kelley. "A ladder truck was used to get them off the balcony."

While there were no serious injuries, paramedics did treat two elderly guests for smoke inhalation and one unidentified firefighter for heat exhaustion. All were treated on scene and released.

When asked where the current guests would stay, Stewart responded "At the time of the fire, 40 rooms were occupied. All of the other hotels and motels are really good about finding rooms for our guests. Nobody is left stranded around here."

The Victoria Inn and Convention Center will be closed until further notice. As of press time, the cause of the fire had yet been determined and was still under investigation.

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