Delmar, DE Motel Fire, Aug 1976
ARSON SUSPECTED IN FIRE THAT SWEEPS 50-UNIT WING OF MOTEL.
MOTEL ROOMS BURNED OUT IN DELMAR FIRE.
Delmar -- Arson is suspected in the Sunday morning fire at the State Line Motel on U.S. 13 near Delmar that destroyed a wing of the motel complex and caused injury to 17 people, according to Fire Marshal W. DONALD WILLIAMS.
Most severely injured as a result of the fire was MARY MEREDITH, 61, of Miami, Fla., who was admitted to Peninsula General Hospital with a fractured ankle that sustained when she jumped from the second floor level of the two-story 50-unit wing.
Also injured in the fire was a 47-year-old New York City man, LAWRENCE LAPIDE, who received a contusion of his right hand while he attempted to help people from the burning building.
Hospital officials also said that 10 others were treated for smoke inhalation and five firemen were treated for minor injuries.
According to reports, a guest of the motel, who was out of his room to get a soft drink, saw a man in the corridor bending down with what he said he thought was a small flashlight. When the man got his drink and turned around the corridor was on fire and the man with the light had fled. Fire officials believe that what the man actually saw was someone with a cigarette lighter.
According to assistant Fire Chief GARY WOOTTEN, who was with the first firemen to respond to the 2:43 a.m. alarm, the fire engine encountered dense smoke almost 100 yards from the motel. Firemen found flames pouring out of a number of motel units.
TED EVANS, the motel owner, said that he believed that the entire complex had about 100 people in it and that they were evacuated within 10 minutes after the fire was discovered.
He also said that cots were set up in the nearby Del-Mar-Va Convention Hall for some of the evacuees, while others were put in other areas of the motel.
Thirty-one pieces of equipment from eight fire companies responded to the blaze. Companies involved were from Delmar, Salisbury, Laurel Gumbro, Sharptown, Hebron, Parsonsburg and Princess Anne.
An estimated 150 firemen fought the blaze for almost 11 hours, and Chief WOOTTEN, who praised all the companies involved, said that "It was a losing battle. We had to fight the fire room by room, and there was just no way we could do it."
MRS. KAY DAVIS, the manager of the motel, called the fact that the fire had been contained in the one unit "lucky" and added that "If it hadn't been for the swimming pool we might have lost the whole thing." It was reported that the firemen used the pool for a water supply and drained almost 100,000 gallons from it.
MRS. DAVIS along with fire officials, praised the citizens of the community who, they said, came out in force to help people who had lost what clothes and belongings they had with them in their rooms when the fire broke out. "Everybody in the community pitched in," MRS. DAVIS said, "and everybody worked together."
This praised, according to Salisbury's fire company chaplain, the Rev. HARVEY DIXON, also included the occupants of the motel. "In many cases," the Rev. MR. DIXON said, "other guests of the motel opened up their rooms and let the people in."
The Rev MR. DIXON also spoke of the people who had been in that part of the motel that caught fire and how they had worked to help others. "We had to break out car windows of guests whose cars were parked right in front of their rooms in order to move them, because the people had been so concerned about helpig others that they left their belongings, (such as car keys) behind and could not get back in to get them," he said.
According to Fire Marshall WILLIAMS other indications that the fire was an arson was the fact that while firemen fought the motel blaze, two other fire alarms were called in. One at the Concord Apartments in the 800 block of E. East St., where papers were set on fire, and another involving the seat of a delivery truck used by a Delmar factory.
State police and the fire marshal's office are working together on the investigation of the fires, and although the apartment house and delivery truck sustained only minor damage, the actual damage to the motel in dollar figures was not established early today.
Firemen had to be called back at least twice.
The Daily Times Salisbury Maryland 1976-08-02