Cause of Hotel Fire at Lake Tahoe Unknown

By: Joe Harrington Email
By: Joe Harrington Email

Everyone made it out safely after a South Lake Tahoe hotel caught on fire. It happened at about 3 a.m. Sunday. The Chateau Inn, near Heavenly Village, sustained major damage.

"I was just in my room and I heard some popping or something... I heard a roar and I looked out my door and the flames were shooting out this side of the building," Michael Finnell, an employee at the Chateau Inn, said.

A witness says the flames were as tall as the building. Another describes seeing a wall of fire, that gutted the Chateau Inn on Park Avenue. 24 of 28 rooms were destroyed, according to one news report. In the early morning hours, there was a rush to escape.

"(I) ran around for a little bit making sure everybody was out, and once we were accounted... we were thankful," Finnell said. He also said he knocked on doors to alert people to the blaze.

The fire reached a gas meter, an official says it failed, and one witness says it was hours before firefighters could fully extinguish the inferno.

"We had a gas-fed flame that was being fed by about 50 PSI gas," South Lake Tahoe Fire Marshal Ray Zachau said.

The fire marshal says many-long term residents lived at the inn. The Red Cross was called in to help, and residents are now staying at nearby hotels. Some say people lost everything.

Meanwhile, from the debris, it's hoped clues will be found that reveal the cause of the fire. One witness wonders if a fight shortly before the blaze, is connected.

"The only thing I witnessed is in this window right here a bunch of couples were throwing alcohol at each other and just flicking cigarette butts at each other," a witness said.

A fire investigator says witnesses are giving conflicting reports about how the fire started.

Investigators were on the scene of the fire all day Sunday. Darkness forced a halt to work, which is expected to resume Monday.

Police confirm one person was arrested at or near the hotel Sunday. However, authorities say the arrest was unrelated to the fire.


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