Fire forces evacuation at downtown Dallas hotel

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by WENDY CORONA

WFAA

Posted on December 1, 2012 at 6:28 PM

Updated Sunday, Dec 2 at 12:49 AM

Crowne Plaza Hotel

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DALLAS — A smoky fire forced the evacuation of hundreds of guests at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Dallas Saturday afternoon.

Dallas Fire-Rescue said the first units to arrive at 1015 Elm Street shortly before 3 p.m. reported heavy smoke coming from the 22-story building.

Firefighters quickly identified and extinguished the source of the smoke in the south stairwell on the third floor.

"We don't have anything that would indicate that there's anything suspicious in the fire," said Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans.

Hotel management said all 387 guests at the hotel were safely evacuated; seven of them were treated by paramedics for smoke inhalation. One person was hospitalized for an unspecified burn injury.

Guests told News 8 that the power went out at 2:50 p.m. and the fire alarm sounded. Austin Wright was with his girlfriend and his sister on the 19th floor, and said it was a confusing few minutes trying to reach safety.

"We grabbed as many people as we could and made it down," Wright said. "We started going down the stairwell closest to our room, and the smoke was so thick ... about two floors down, three floors down... that we had to back it up ... we lost a woman in that stairwell, but she made it out okay, we saw her come out."

"It was real smoky and cloudy, so they ran to the side we were on and ran down the steps with us," Brandon Bowers said. "They didn't have shoes on or anything."

Bowers, who was on vacation, captured some of the drama on his video camera.

The building, which dates back to 1969, will remain closed on Saturday evening while power is restored. Crowne Plaza management has arranged alternative accommodations for all guests. Firefighters escorted guests to their rooms to retrieve their belongings.

"They were really helpful," said Krystle Villarruz, who is visiting from New York. "Got in the freight elevator. Got us upstairs. There's no power inside, so firefighters with flashlights just waited until I got everything together."

A party for several hundred people Saturday evening also had to be canceled, and it was uncertain whether the hotel could reopen on Sunday.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Damage to the building was estimated at $25,000.

E-mail wcorona@wfaa.com

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