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Olympia hotel that caught fire and displaced families did not have sprinkler system, officials say

Roughly 80 people were evacuated after a Quality Inn in Olympia caught fire early Friday morning. The main building of the hotel is a total loss.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Officials say a hotel in Olympia that caught fire early Friday morning, displacing around 80 people, was not up to code due to the age of the building. 

The Olympia Fire Department responded to the fire at the Quality Inn on the 1200 block of Quince St. SE just after midnight. A second-alarm was called so more crews could help battle the blaze.

Fire officials said the fire started with a shrub outside the hotel, then spread to the siding and into the attic, making it a challenging fire to contain.

Olympia Fire Department Assistant Chief Kevin Bossard said the current state fire code requires buildings to have sprinkler systems, but this hotel was built before that law was in place.  

“When it’s built to code during its time, that’s just the code it’s built under. We can’t retroactively require too many things whether they’re required by code or by law per se for the lack of sprinklers," explained Bossard. "Since this structure has never undergone any major remodel there was never a cause for the city to require them to bring it up to today’s code.”

Firefighters attempted to fight the fire from the inside of the building for 45 minutes and helped 15 people escape. The main building of the hotel is a total loss but a second building was able to be saved, according to a press release.

Fifty of the 80 people evacuated were homeless and staying at the hotel during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our kids were starting to have some kind of stability at least having shelter there, and then for this to hit it’s like we’re back to ground zero," said Clashe Oliver, who was staying at the hotel with her husband and three children. The family was staying at the Pear Blossom Place Family Shelter but was moved to the hotel for social distancing purposes during the pandemic. 

“Everything that I had to distract them from what they were already going through is gone," said Oliver. "It hurts so bad because it’s like it started right next to our room. Every time I look at the news I see that our room is completely gone."

The Family Support Center of South Sound is the organization hosting the families at the hotel and the organization released the following statement after the fire: 

“Family Support Center of South Sound was hosting 15 families at the Quality Inn hotel. These were all families who were homeless that we moved from our Pear Blossom Place Family Shelter to the hotel in mid March in order to accommodate for appropriate social distancing measures needed in response to COVID-19. We have moved all guests to an alternate hotel and are working with our community to provide the necessary support and basic need provisions to help them all through this extremely challenging time.”

The cause of the fire is still unknown. No injuries have been reported.

Choice Hotels, the company that owns Quality Inn, released the below statement when asked about the building code requirements.

“As a franchisor, hotels in our system are independently owned and operated. All hotels are required to comply with national, state and local laws.

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Black smoke and flames were still seen coming from the roof of the building around noon and hot spots persisted into the afternoon Friday.

Two Intercity Transit buses were sent to the scene to temporarily house the roughly 80 people who were staying at the hotel, the Olympia Fire Department said. The Red Cross and hotel staff are working to help find them shelter. 

The Olympia Fire Department, Lacey Fire, Tumwater Fire Department, McLane Black Lake Fire Department, South Bay Fire, and East Olympia Fire responded to the scene.