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Victims flee from Quality Inn, Greenfield, fire into bitter cold

GREENFIELD — About 18 motel guests — some still in pajamas in the frigid air, others refugees from a December Mill House fire — were evacuated Friday morning, after a fire broke out at the Quality Inn.

The Greenfield Fire Department, assisted by the Turners Falls and Bernardston fire departments, responded to the fire at around 10 a.m. Firefighters were able to confine the fire to a single wing at the back of the motel. By about 11 a.m., the fire was extinguished.

“We believe that the fire was started by the heating element in an (unoccupied) room,” Greenfield Fire Captain John Whitney said later Friday afternoon. He said the damage was confined to the room where the fire started, along with smoke damage to the hallway and to other rooms.

Until the damage is repaired and the rooms cleaned, the first floor of that wing will be closed, he said.

By the afternoon, Front Desk Manager Sasha Bowman had placed the evacuated guests into other rooms. Bowman said Quality Inn has a total of 100 rooms, with about 40 rooms in the part of the building where the fire started.
“The hotel has moved everybody,” said Whitney. “The hotel took good care of everyone.”

Earlier that morning, Fire Chief Robert Strahan said two persons were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, but no one had to be taken to the hospital.

The Greenfield Fire Department asked the Franklin Regional Transit Authority to send an out-of-service bus to the motel, to serve as a temporary warming place for those who had been evacuated from their rooms; also, Applebee’s restaurant donated food and beverages for the fire victims. Around 10:30 a.m., about a dozen people sat inside the running bus, to warm up. They included some young families with infants and toddlers.

“I was in my room, right next to the heater, when I smelled something,” said 16-year-old Hannah Jackson, whose warmest article of clothing was a sweatshirt. “Then I saw smoke coming in under the door. Then I left.

“I hope everything is all right,” she said, looking out the bus window toward her room. “I have a lot of clothes in there.”

“We opened the door and a lot of smoke came into the room,” said Robert, who would only give his first name. “We could see down the hallway. It was black.” Robert said the motel staff called, telling everyone to get out.

For Marie Smith, her next-door neighbor Jim Cranson, and for Smith’s cat, this marked the second time in as many months that they had to escape a fire. Smith and Cranson have been temporarily staying at the Quality Inn while their apartments in the Mill House complex are being repaired.

“Our apartments were flooded during the Dec. 10th fire,” said Smith.

On Friday morning, “We looked out our windows, and we could see the smoke. We came out into the hall. There was a lot of smoke in the hallway. I was pretty upset,” she said, her eyes tearing slightly. We were flooded out of our first apartments, and there’s been a lot of stress through this whole thing.”

“It’s like our lives have to be on hold,” she added.

In addition to the responding fire departments, ambulances from Bay State Health and Deerfield responded, and the Deerfield and South Deerfield departments provided coverage for the Greenfield Fire Department. Also, the Greenfield Police Department assisted.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com.

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