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Arson fire damages Days Inn

Joe Napsha
| Sunday, May 13, 2012, 11:44 p.m.

The New Stanton Days Inn was closed by a smoky arson fire Tuesday night, forcing guests to find rooms at another New Stanton hotel late last night.

New Stanton Fire Chief Bob Liberty said a state police fire marshal is investigating to determine the cause of the fire, but said it was an arson. Liberty said the fire, which was reported at 8:54 p.m., was started in a third-floor hallway.

Trooper Richard Doran, a state police fire marshal, was investigating the cause of the fire and another trooper was interviewing witnesses, Liberty said.

The fire was knocked down quickly by firefighters, Liberty said, but the third floor of the hotel sustained heavy smoke and fire damage and there was smoke damage throughout the building. No estimate of damage was available last night.

Liberty said it was determined that it would not be safe to allow guests to stay overnight because of the smoke. Authorities allowed guests back into their rooms to retrieve their belongings, but were given rooms at the Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge nearby. He did not know how many guests were at the motel.

There were no reports of injuries in the fire, but a couple of third-floor guests had to be evacuated from their rooms by climbing down a fire truck ladder.

Cathy Nowalk, an owner of the Days Inn, declined to comment on the fire.

New Stanton firefighters were joined by several units from the Greensburg, Hempfield Township, Youngwood and Mt. Pleasant areas in battling the fire. Firefighters were on the scene for three hours.

A group of construction workers from Gulfport, Miss., who were staying on the third floor, said they were alerted by a knock on the door from a fellow worker, who had to escape the fire by climbing down a fire truck's ladder.

"Billowing black smoke came in (when I opened the door.) I hit the floor, went down about four rooms," before escaping from the smoke, said Rob Frederickson of Gulfport.

Another construction worker, Steve Johnson, said he also was hit with the smoke when he opened his hotel room door.

"It took my breath away and burnt my eyes," Johnson said.

Johnson said he opened his window to get fresh air. Firefighters broke the window and he also climbed down the ladder.

One of the Days Inn guests wondering where they would be sleeping last night were Wolfgang and Gabrielle Wegmann, a German couple enroute to Washington, D.C.

The Wegmanns, who live near Hamburg, were taking a nap when they received a phone call telling them to leave, Wolfgang said.

Liberty said he anticipates meeting with the Days Inn owner today and that New Stanton's code enforcement officer will inspect the building to determine when the hotel can reopen.

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