Wausau fire inspectors have turned their investigation on a fire burning a hotel in Wausau on Saturday over to insurance investigators. Wausau Fire Inspector David DeSantis said foul play is not suspected.
The fire happened at the Days Inn on 17th Avenue. The initial investigation shows a bath tub had overflowed on the second floor in the same area where the fire was later discovered. DeSantis said there was a problem in the five-inch space where pipes and electrical wiring is held in between rooms. He added something in that area failed, but they do not know what. The damage was mostly contained to the west side or back of the building.
About two dozen guests staying there at the time had to be evacuated. People got out of the building as quickly as they could and some did not even have a chance to grab shoes or a coat. No one was seriously injured. Guests were taken over to the Plaza Hotel across the street. Employees there provided about 40 rooms for victims to stay in over the weekend. Many of the victims were extended-stay residents and were moved to a Motel 6 on Monday. These long-term residents kept most if not everything they owned in those rooms.
DeSantis said people staying in the east section or front half of the building were able to salvage the majority of their belongings, but those closer to the fire were not so lucky.
"The section where the roof is missing, the upstairs rooms are in pretty rough shape," said DeSantis. "We were able to salvage some personal belongings for a few of those tenants. And then, the area below that, a little bit better, again they were able to get some stuff out of there."
One family was temporarily living in the hotel for the past month and a half. They were not around when the fire broke out, but their room was in the hot zone.
"I'm devastated really," said Jeffrey Gatlin. "We lost everything that we own. We got two little ones that we need to be strong for. We need to be strong as a family."
Sarah Meverden and Gatlin, were looking for apartments, but with two little boys, they wanted to wait until the weather got warmer to find a more permanent place to live. Meverden and Gatlin planned on living at days inn for the next couple of months, but now they only have each other and the clothes on their backs as everything they owned went up in flames, and on their six-year-old's birthday, too.
"Christmas presents, everything that we owned before we even went shopping is lost. Like all of our social security cards, my sons' social security cards, my social security cards, papers, important stuff," said Gatlin.
The family had also left their car their while they were gone. It was sitting right outside one of the main fire zones. The car is frozen shut and will not start due to the water used to put out the fire.
The family as well as others are asking for any help or donations. One woman, not affiliated with any organization has been helping victims by making soup and hot chocolate and collecting donations and other supplies.
"One of the people that got some soup and hot chocolate from me told me I was an angel from heaven," said Chanelle Roth. "And I said, you know, if everyone helped out with something, things would get a lot better."
Roth holds two jobs, and has multiple children. She has been bringing them along to help as well. Roth said she would want others to help her if she was in need, and knows how much these people really need it.
The American Red Cross as well as the Days Inn staff have been helping provide basic necessities and places to stay.
If you would like to contribute you are asked to call 1-800-RED-CROSS (733-2767).
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