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For more than 11 hours, six fire depart­ments fought to extin­guish a fire that ravaged the Cold­water Inn on Feb. 16.
The fire demol­ished the inn’s main building, but two sec­ondary struc­tures remain. There were no casu­alties. The initial cause of the fire is still being inves­ti­gated.
“It was a pretty sig­nif­icant fire in terms of how long it lasted,” Cold­water Fire Department Chief Rich Sherman said. “A lot of things worked against us.”
Monday’s sub-zero tem­per­a­tures, the building’s unique metal roof, and a broken gas line con­tributed to a perfect storm of factors inhibiting fire­fighters from quenching the flames.
According to the Cold­water Fire Department, the fire was reported by a res­ident who smelled smoke at 3:50 a.m. on Feb. 16.
The Cold­water Fire Department responded imme­di­ately. The location of the inn, a few miles outside of town on U.S. 12, made the sit­u­ation dif­ficult. Because there weren’t any hydrants nearby, the department called for help from neigh­boring fire depart­ments for extra man­power to transport gallons of water by truckers to the location.
The depart­ments of Quincy, Bronson, Lakeland, Union City, and Colon responded and a portion of U.S. 12 was shut down to quicken the process.
Sherman described the inn as a “complex structure” which included two, two-story units con­nected to one single-story structure. The fire began at the west end of the single-story’s attic, above the inn’s office and manager living area.
The building’s con­struction allowed for the fire to spread rapidly: Its roof, built of metal on top of mul­tiple older roof layers, pro­vided con­cealed spaces for the fire to advance.
“It was hard to break through the roof so the fire was able to travel unde­tected. We kept having to move down to the next unit to stop it there,” Sherman said.
The fire depart­ments even­tually brought in exca­vators to col­lapse the roof of the single-story building to help squelch the flames.
A broken gas line behind the building also inhibited the fire­fighters from putting out the fire.
“We had to allow that to burn because it was natural gas. Then the gas company had to find the broken pipe. They had to dig up several areas to finally find it and shut it off. It took a good two hours,” Sherman said.
The weather also played a major role in the sit­u­ation, according to Sherman. Monday night’s tem­per­ature ranged from 6 degrees to minus 9 degrees.
One fire­fighter was admitted to a hos­pital for hypothermia, and even­tually released, and the depart­ments expe­ri­enced tech­nical issues with equipment freezing and men slipping on the icy, metal roof.
The fire­fighters did not leave the scene until 3 p.m.
The inn’s 67 guests and res­i­dents forced into the sub-zero weather with no shelter were trans­ferred to the Cold­water Church of Nazarene and then Coldwater’s Coach Eby Youth and Family Center with assis­tance from the American Red Cross.
“With the help of the com­munity and tremendous support groups the res­i­dents have been sup­plied with clothing and all of the essen­tials that they lost,” Sherman said. “They’re hopeful to reoccupy those two-story potions after the elec­trical issues are solved.”