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Fire at the Quality Hotel in Hatfield
05 July 2006

A FIRE broke out in a hotel, sparking an evacuation at lunchtime on Sunday.

The fire started in a ceiling space at the Quality Hotel in Hatfield when a light fitting overheated.

Fire crews from Hatfield and St Albans arrived at about 1pm. Steve Duncan, sub officer at Hatfield fire station, said: "The fire was quite difficult to get at and we had to use thermal imaging cameras to find it."

A car burst into flames in a busy supermarket car park on Sunday.

A crew from Hatfield fire station arrived at about 12.15pm and put out the blaze in about half an hour.


Lincoln Plaza Hotel fire investigated
MONTEREY PARK - A fire that caused an estimated $1.3million in damage to a seven-story hotel Tuesday morning was still under investigation, according to the Monterey Park Fire Department.

The fire started on the roof of the Lincoln Plaza Hotel, 123 S. Lincoln Ave., shortly after 8a.m. and took six hours to bring under control. Firefighters were able to contain fire and smoke damage to the area of origin.

Monterey Park firefighters battled the blaze with assistance from the Alhambra, Arcadia, Los Angeles County, Pasadena, San Gabriel and South Pasadena fire departments. In all, there were nine engine companies, five truck companies, three rescue ambulances and four battalion chiefs on hand.

An Arcadia firefighter and two hotel guests suffered heat-exhaustion injuries, the fire department said.

About 150 people were safely evacuated from their rooms.

A disaster response team from the San Gabriel Pomona Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross provided lunch and refreshments to about 50 hotel guests at a parking lot across the street until it was safe for them to return to get their belongings, said Red Cross volunteer Michael Heather

Marred by deadly disaster, Atlanta hotel gets new life

From the street, the old Winecoff Hotel looks like any number of weathered downtown properties vying to reinvent itself in the midst of the city's tourism boom.

The once-luxurious hotel has been vacant for 24 years, having a tattered existence after a 1946 fire in the building killed 119 people, the deadliest hotel fire in U.S. history and one that helped forever change fire codes across the country.

But developers now are renovating the 15-story structure into a 127-room boutique hotel that will be renamed The Ellis, after one of the streets the hotel stands on. It's planned to open in June of next year and will preserve much of the Winecoff's former glory and look _ but not its name.

"It's obviously a conundrum," said Susan Griffin, a member of Kelco/FB Winecoff LLC, a real estate group based in New York City that's renovating the hotel. "We definitely want to be sufficiently reverent to history but it's one that's now haunted by its history of a disaster."

Built nearly 50 years after Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman burned Atlanta to the ground during the Civil War, the Winecoff Hotel represented a measure of sophistication for the rebuilding city, said Sam Heys, co-author of the 1993 book "The Winecoff Fire."

"When it was built in 1913, it was probably the premier hotel in Atlanta," Heys said. "It was a great source of pride for the city."

The hotel lacked the fire-safety measures now common in public buildings, such as sprinkler systems and corner stairwells or other fire escapes. The $24 million renovation project, of course, will be complete with those modern safety devices.

"It's amazing to me that the hotel was able to go with such archaic fire safety from then to 1946," Griffin said, referring to the building's first 33 years. "I'd say you could call that lucky."

On the night of Dec. 6, 1946, the hotel was full with 280 people. The end of World War II had brought American soldiers home to growing cities like Atlanta that didn't have the extra housing to accommodate them yet.

"In 1946, Atlanta was a city that was busting at its seams," Heys said. "The hotels in the city in December 1946 were just full. Some people were having to live in the hotels week by week trying to find an apartment."

The fire started just after midnight on Dec. 7, 1946, in the west hallway of the third floor. Officially listed as a fire of "unknown origin," Heys and co-author Allen B. Goodwin suspect it was caused by arson because the fire quickly spread with unnatural speed to the east hallway two floors up.

Smoke inhalation was blamed for most of the deaths. Others died from falling or jumping out of windows to escape the flames and smoke, Heys said.

Janet Cox's mother, Dorothy, survived her seven-story jump from the building. A 16-year-old high school student from Columbus who was staying at the hotel while participating in a state YMCA mock legislature, Dorothy Mowen Cox leapt from her room when the flames got too close. Among those killed in the fire were 30 of the high school students.

The teenager landed on top of a two-story building next to the Winecoff. She lost her teeth and broke her jaw, pelvis and legs. She had complications from her injuries the rest of her life.

"My mom was not supposed to be able to have children. She would have nightmares once she got home about getting out of her room _ she lived in a two-story home. She was frightened about it," said Cox, whose mother died three years ago.

The Winecoff fire _ combined with two other deadly fires earlier in 1946, in Illinois and Iowa _ led officials to create model documents that cities could use for fire safety, said Casey Grant, assistant chief engineer for the National Fire Protection Association.

Those new codes included required sprinklers and multiple exits and bans on flammable materials in buildings.

"The Winecoff was part of the string of fires that really helped be a catalyst for the public conscience to help these changes occur," Grant said. "The hotel industry has really taken it upon themselves. They've really made sure that collectively, hotels are among the safest places to stay, at least the big chain hotels."

After the fire, the hotel reopened in 1949 as The Peachtree. In 1967, as brand-new luxury hotels gained prominence in downtown Atlanta, The Peachtree closed and its owners sold the building to the Georgia Baptist Association. That group used the building for 15 more years as a senior citizens' home, until it was closed in 1982.

Since then, there have been many plans for the building that ultimately never materialized. Heys said this latest plan likely will give new life to the property.

Cox said her family is supportive of the new plans for the old hotel because her mother would have approved.

"She would have been very glad to have seen it," she said. "I think she would be happy that it would be something else, another hotel even."

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