The Office of the State Fire Marshal is investigating to determine what caused a 1:00 a.m. hotel fire that resulted in the evacuation of dozens of guests and racked up an estimated $35,000 in property damage and contents loss during the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
City firefighters were dispatched to the Ramada Inn located at 116 San Marco Avenue in St Augustine at 12:59:00am — arriving on the scene four minutes later. The last fire unit left the scene at 5:13:00am.
St Augustine firefighter Lt Carlos R Aviles established command of the scene this morning then reported to Historic City News that Assistant Chief and City Fire Marshal John Rayno asked, due to the extent of the damage and the high heat involved during the fire, for the State Fire Marshal to investigate the fire.
Owner’s spokesperson Robert Greene told firefighters that Gl Insurance Agency holds the fire policy on the commercial building.
Aviles reported, “Heavy fire was coming from the 4th floor southeast corner” when crews began to arrive at the hotel.
First responders launched an immediate search for victims, evacuated guests on adjoining floors, established a water supply and began to attack the flames.
Once extinguished, crews searched for additional fire above, behind and beside the fire room, Aviles said. “Once the fire was extinguished crews left the scene intact for incoming investigators.” According to the fire report, the major damage was confined to the 4th floor hotel room and did not spread.
The State Fire Marshal arrived on scene at 4:30 a.m. this morning, but he would not enter until the room had been cleared by a hazardous materials team. Engine 16 arrived on the scene and completed atmospheric monitoring. The scene was deemed “safe” so, the State Fire Marshal began his investigation.
According to the report, the firefighters suspected that the room could have been used to manufacture drugs. Investigators noted that the occupant was seen “running away with soot and possibly with burns”.
Sheriff’s representative Chuck Mulligan told reporters this afternoon that the police may have located the occupant of the room, however, details have not yet been confirmed.