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Lawrence fire crews battle motel fire

Posted: 4:23 PM, Jan 15, 2018
Updated: 2018-01-15 23:29:00-05

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Lawrence firefighters continued to attack hot spots on a hotel Monday night after spending hours battling “one of the biggest fires” in recent memories. 

As some crews attacked the flames, others went door-to-door evacuating nearby neighbors in fear of another collapse. The building was eventually demolished a little after 10 p.m. to help the fire die out sooner.

“I have been a little nervous all day that it might spread,” said Melanie Privat, who lives in an apartment building next-door. 

Firefighters first responded to a call to the America's Best Value Inn off of McDonald Drive at 11:55 a.m. According to the 911 caller, smoke was coming from the hotel’s basement. 

Fire crews attacked the fire from the inside for about an hour before taking a defensive position amid concerns for a collapse. 

A mayday call went out at 12:45 p.m. for a firefighter who fell through a floor in the structure. 

“He was working as a part of suppressing this fire when he fell through the floor,” said Lawrence Fire Department Division Chief Jim King. “Within minutes he was rescued by a crew, evaluated and was not injured. He continued to help fight the fire after.” 

TIMELINE: 
11:48 a.m. — 911 call reporting fire within the building.

11:55 a.m. — Initial alarm response team arrived and reported smoke showing.

12:11 p.m. — All-clear given as crews aggressively attacked the interior.

12:45 p.m. — Mayday call for a firefighter who fell through the floor. Minutes later the firefighter was rescued and removed from building with no injuries.

1:00 p.m. — Firefighters transitioned to a defensive attack

3:02 p.m. — Structural weakening noted 

3:46 p.m. — Partial collapse  

9:00 p.m. — Firefighters putting out hotspots, evacuating nearby apartment buildings 

10:10 p.m. — Building demolished to help fire die out quicker

Fire crews from Wakarusa, Overland Park, Lenexa and Johnson County MedAct helped Lawrence firefighters Monday. From the air and the ground, crews battled the flames and negative wind chills. 

“Their gear literally froze around them in it. It’s difficult to work when you have those kinds of conditions,” said King. 

According to firefighters on scene, the motel was a wood-frame building, which allowed the fire to grow quickly. Since it was older, King said it probably did not have a sprinkler system. 

Investigators were on scene interviewing families inside the hotel at the time and nearby witnesses Monday. They hope to examine the building Tuesday to determine what caused the fire. 

The Lawrence Fire Department has scheduled a briefing for Tuesday at 10 a.m. to discuss the fire further.