Mattress believed to cause fire at Park Avenue motel
A mattress leaning against a wall heater started a fire that spread to four units early Saturday morning at a Park Avenue motel and caused $135,000 worth of damage.
The blaze started in a room at Paradice Motel around 2:40 a.m. and rooms were engulfed in flames when South Lake Tahoe firefighters arrived at the motel.
Three engines and 11 firefighters used 500 gallons of water to fight the fire and had it extinguished within a few minutes. A Jeep CJ-5 parked in front of the motel also caught fire.
The 14-room motel was filled to capacity when fire broke out. Police and firemen evacuated guests who had to spend the rest of the night at city of South Lake Tahoe Parks and Recreation Department Complex. No other motels or hotels could accommodate them because they were booked due to the holiday weekend.
“I’ve always made this place my home. All my customers really love my place,” said Vinod Patel, the 48-year-old motel owner, who Sunday morning had begun to hose soot from his building with the help of an employee. “And look at this, why did this happen to me? I do all the maintenance. You look at my rooms, they are 100 percent right.”
The fire department reported that several smoke detectors and fire extinguishers at the motel failed to work the night of the fire.
Patel said about eight rooms were affected by the blaze and that he plans to keep the entire motel closed until insurance agents say it’s safe to reopen. For now, the burnt rooms have been sealed with large sections of plywood.
Police are still investigating the fire but they said they believe three men from Rohnert Park, Calif., were involved in it. Casey Lee, 19, reportedly told police that when he returned from gambling at a Stateline casino he found his room filled with smoke.
Jeremy Barringer, a 20-year-old who was also a guest in the room where the fire started, spoke to investigators by phone and reportedly told them that Lee and his friend Paul Salfen, 19, had gotten into a fight over money. The two slammed each other into walls until Lee reportedly left for the casinos.
Salfen, angry about the fight, allegedly threw a mattress across the room before he left the motel, Barringer reportedly told police. Salfen then drove to Stateline to look for Lee, but could not find him and left for Rohnert Park that morning.
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