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Archive for Sunday, December 29, 2002

California hotel fire kills at least four

December 29, 2002

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— Fire in the early-morning darkness Saturday spread through the top floor of a small residential hotel, killing four people and injuring 18 as firefighters pulled dozens more to safety.

When firefighters reached the Sunset Hotel just before 1 a.m., several people were hanging from the windows of the upper floors, fire officials said. Firefighters used ladders to reach more than 30 people, including a 2-month-old infant, but others were trapped inside, and much of the third floor was engulfed in flames.

"I just started running along, trying to knock on doors, saying 'C'mon people! Out, out, out!,'" desk clerk Gary Chaney said.

The hotel manager took an elevator to the third floor, possibly to alert the guests. He and three other adults later were found dead.

"When the elevator door opened, he was right in the middle of the fire," Battalion Chief Mike Alder said. "He probably took one or two breaths and that was it."

Also killed on the third floor were a woman in the hallway, a man near a window and a man who had taken refuge in a bathroom. Their identities were not immediately released.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation, but firefighters had doused two trash can fires at the hotel in recent months, Alder said. He said the last one, on Nov. 8, also occurred on the third floor.

There were 94 people in the building at the time the blaze began, authorities said.

Of the 18 people injured in the fire, two were listed in critical condition and two others in guarded condition, hospital officials said. Others, including five children, were either listed as stable or were being treated for minor injuries.

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