ROCKY MOUNT – More than 100 Comfort Inn guests were evacuated for several hours Friday night after a fire broke out in a room on the third floor.
Rocky Mount firefighters responded around 6:45 p.m. to the hotel at 200 Gateway Blvd. after a fire alarm was activated.
“A working fire alarm system saved the day here,” Batallion Chief Jamie Vaughan said.
He said fire crews traced the fire to an unoccupied room on the third floor and were able to extinguish the blaze in about 10 minutes before it spread to the rest of the hotel. It took several hours for firefighters to make sure the rest of the five-story hotel was clear of smoke, meanwhile the guests from the hotel’s 76 occupied rooms were forced to wait outside.
Maryland resident Ginger Loeschner was at the gas station when she saw fire trucks headed for the hotel where she had reserved a room for the night. She spent the next several hours reading a newspaper with her luggage nearby on a cart.
Garry MacDonald was asleep when he heard the fire alarm sound.
“The staff came by and said we needed to get out,” MacDonald said. “I thought, ‘Am I dreaming?’ but I heard the fire trucks and knew I wasn’t.”
MacDonald was on his way home to Virginia from the South Carolina border when he decided to stop for the night. The Ace Hardware truck driver said he’d been up since 2 a.m. making deliveries and was glad hotel staff was able to wake him.
“The staff did a great job,” he said. “They beat on my door and woke me up from my dead sleep. They did that, so they did good.”
Other guests said the alarm sounded then stopped before sounding again less than a minute later causing them to evacuate before staff made their rounds through the hallways.
“Everybody is safe and that is the main thing,” MacDonald said. “The fire department jumped right into action.”
Vaughan said the fire is not suspicious and might have been caused by a electrical malfunction in the room’s heating and air-conditioning unit.
As one of the department’s two engines, two ladder trucks and two rescue trucks that responded to the fire left the scene Friday night, Loeschner smiled.
“Bye. Don’t come back,” she said jokingly.
Her sentiment was felt by many of the other guests who said they were hoping for a more relaxing night.
Comfort Inn management declined to comment on the incident.
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