“All we care about is everybody’s alive and everybody’s safe,” he said. “The fire department did a great job saving this building, and they contained the fire so fast.”
The fire, which started in a second story storeroom, started after volunteers were bringing in items left over from a yard sale to support the motel’s homeless program, said Jody Holland.
No one was injured, she said, but one woman, who has serious health problems, was taken by ambulance to the Montrose hospital to be checked for smoke inhalation.
The woman, who is in her late 30s, has a debilitating condition and is unable to care for herself, and the Hollands were in the process of trying to find a nursing home or hospice care, Jody Holland said. But after the fire her mother took her in.
Montrose Fire Department investigators are uncertain as to how the fire began, but it was primarily contained to the storage room over the front office. The two-story building is connected in an L-shape to an adjoining building with a dozen guest rooms. About six occupants were moved to another part of the motel.
That wing of the hotel remains closed for the time being, said John Holland, and guests have everything they need except telephone service.
Holland credits his staff with quick thinking in calling 911 and getting guests out of nearby rooms, led by manager Caradith Hadley. Holland said he was able to watch all the events from the motel’s security camera, which stayed on throughout much of the fire.
Security cameras recorded events from the smoke detector going off to 13 minutes later when firefighters had water hoses snaking into the building, he said.
“They could use it as a training video. The power was on all the way until DMEA came in and turned it off,” he said. “You could hear everything, even water pouring in on the ceiling.”
Apparently a passerby noticed smoke from the second story and came in to tell Hadley, Holland said, and it was all recorded on tape.
“She immediately called 911 and went in and completely evacuated the entire building, and got staff to make sure everyone was completely evacuated,” he said. “She took the 100 percent proper steps of what she had to do, and everybody walked away from it.”
Holland also had high praise for the fire department, which he said saved as much as they could while battling the blaze, which he said burned hot and flamed up quickly to an inferno.
“They were on the scene so fast, and I can’t tell you how much they saved,” he said. “They saved computers and files and even my wife’s pictures on her desk. Those guys were on it.”
Montrose Police were also at the scene within minutes, he said, blocking off the street, keeping passersby at bay and providing traffic control.
The quick response saved the building, and although the contents and ceiling were destroyed, the roof was saved, Holland said, and he has a whole roomful of items that firefighters were able to save.
“They couldn’t save everything, but they saved so much stuff,” he said. “They could have just busted the walls down.”
The narrative in Deputy Chief Tad Rowan’s report on the fire states that firefighters encountered heavy smoke, no visibility and intense heat, with “heavy fire” in the back room of the upper story, extending into the attic. The report states that the fire did not progress to the south, toward the adjoining wing, because of the cathedral ceiling.
The room contained clothing and other items that the Hollands use in their program to house some of the area’s homeless. They currently are serving 90 individuals, said John Holland.
The county recently saw the opening of its first homeless shelter, Haven House in Olathe, for homeless families, and the Hollands also help meet that need. Like Haven House, they also work with their charges to use community resources to help their situations.
“We’re talking about people with no place to go,” he said. “But we’re helping them use resources from food stamps to social security.”
None of the homeless or other guests were displaced, he said, and the program will continue.
“I think this fire is only going to make us stronger,” he said.
No one know what caused the fire, which is still under investigation, Holland said. While there was no ignition source in the room where the fire started, many people were in and out that day, he said.
“We’re waiting for the insurance investigator,” he said.
Losses from the fire are estimated at $100,000 for damage to the building and $20,000 for loss of contents, according to the fire department report. The property is valued at $1 million with contents valued at $750,000. The building did not have a sprinkler system, Rowan said.
Despite the damage from the fire, Holland said he’s amazed at the outpouring of support from the community. Holiday Inn offered use of their laundry facilities, he said, and Colorado Self Storage offered a free storage unit.
“Even yesterday we had a pastors’ prayer circle here, but as bad as it looks, we’ve had nothing but extended arms,” he said. “The whole community has been stepping up.”
Fourteen firefighters, seven fire vehicles, including two ambulances, responded to the fire, which was called in at 2:38 p.m., Rowan said. He said having a copy of Holland’s video will be valuable to the department, but brushed aside his praise.
“We responded to this like all incidents,” he said. “Our people are well trained and equipped and responded as appropriate.”