PLATTSBURGH — An early morning fire left about 40 people in search of a place to stay Friday.
Fire crept through the roof of the main building at America's Best Value Inn on Route 3, near the Butcher Block Restaurant, and forced hotel owner Paul Kang and his wife to flee at around 3:30 a.m.
Mr. Kang said he woke to a crash, then looked out the window and saw flames.
"They ... got out of there and called it in," Plattsburgh District 3 Fire Chief Greg Burnell said.
The couple's apartment is over the lobby portion of the hotel complex, at the front of the property. The fire was contained to that part, but the electric and water had to be cut to the remaining portion, which houses the hotel units.
About 25 regular hotel guests were staying there short-term.
And other units were occupied by about 15 residents living there longer term with the aid of public assistance.
Burnell said the hotel building had to be condemned because power was not available.
"We had no problem fighting the fire," he said. "We had it knocked down in about 15 minutes."
Clinton County Social Services Deputy Commissioner Rich Holcomb said the department helped two families and five individuals find other places to stay.
The Social Services clients had been homeless and placed at the hotel on a temporary basis.
"We would do that for anyone who meets the financial criteria who needs help finding a place to stay," Holcomb said.
He said a typical stay in a place like America's Best Value Inn lasts about 10 days, and the county pays between $42 and $45 per day for a room.
"It is traumatic enough to be homeless and living in a place with assistance, and then to be uprooted again, it's hard," Holcomb said.
RED CROSS HELP
On Friday afternoon, Robert Fitzgerald and Peter Ersts, volunteers with the North Country Chapter of the American Red Cross, were assisting six adults with new temporary housing nearby.
Two others were given financial help to buy food and clothing, along with assistance replacing medications lost in the crisis, according to a press release.
“We try to get the immediate needs taken care of,” Fitzgerald said.
No cause for the blaze had been determined as of Friday afternoon, Burnell said, but it appeared to be an electrical issue stemming from the hotel’s neon sign.
Town of Plattsburgh Codes Enforcement Officer Steve Imhoff said the property is insured, but he did not know how long it would take to make the units habitable again.
"Depends on when the electrical contractors are available," he said.
Imhoff said serious problems with the property's electrical panels and cutoff switches were discovered after the fire, but they were not related to the cause.
“We found several code violations between the fire department and ourselves,” he said, noting that much of the electrical workings were outdated.
There were also problems with the natural-gas unit's shutoff valve, Imhoff said.
The problems will need to be corrected before the property can reopen.
Firefighters from Morrisonville, South Plattsburgh and the City of Plattsburgh aided the District 3 crew, and firefighters from Cadyville and Beekmantown provided backup.
Burnell said firefighters were at the hotel until just about 1 p.m. Friday.
"We wanted to make sure that those people were going to find a place to stay," he said.
The Kangs were able to remain in one unit that still had power.
— Contributing Writer Jonathan Schmitt added to this report.