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Fire destroys 43 hotel rooms

August 15, 2014

Local firefighters from Mammoth Lakes to Independence spent much of the day Thursday battling a blaze at the Vagabond hotel on North Main Street in Bishop. The massive blaze destroyed a number of hotel rooms, displacing more than 60 guests. The fire also prompted a closure of U.S. 395, and the evacuation of a nearby trailer park. Photo by Liddy Butler

A massive fire at the Vagabond Hotel in Bishop displaced more than 60 visitors, caused a six-hour closure of North Main Street and drew a lot of attention from curious residents and visitors Thursday.
According to Bishop Police Public Information Officer Katie Coffman, the cause of the fire is under investigation by CalFire, but is not believed to have been intentional. She added that there were three reported injuries. Two people were treated and released at the scene, and a third was transported to Northern Inyo Hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation and a hand injury.
Coffman said that 43 hotel rooms and five utility rooms were completely destroyed in the fire, which burned from about 8:45 a.m.-3 p.m.
“This fire was extremely hot, and our guys were out there for a long time,” Coffman said. “One of the biggest problems we had is that it was staying in the crawl-space area on the second floor.”
Visitors who were staying at the hotel were moved to a temporary relief shelter set up at the Tri-County Fairgrounds. Coffman said that several foreign visitors lost their passports and identification in the fire. Salvation Army, coordinated with the Bishop Post Office to have those passports replaced at the shelter.
Coffman also said that the Salvation Army provided meals for more than 30 firefighters assigned to the blaze, as well as local law enforcement personnel working the incident.
In all, volunteer fire departments from Bishop, Big Pine, Independence and Mammoth Lakes responded alongside CalFire, the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service fire crews. The Bishop PD, Inyo County Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol, Bishop Paiute Tribal Police and Caltrans handled traffic control during the road closure and crowd control as onlookers began to gather in and around the scene.
Coffman said she wanted to remind residents and visitors to keep clear of the scene during any fire or emergency incident. “You can look, but we would like you to stay safe. You don’t want to hinder us from doing our job,” Coffman said, explaining that no bystanders were injured in the fire, but at one point there was a fear that the structure could collapse, and many residents from a nearby trailer park, and visitors staying at the hotel, were attempting to get photos of the blaze.
Fire officials began mop up of the scene at about 3 p.m. and U.S. Highway 395 (Main Street) was opened with escorts shortly before 1 p.m. By 3:30 p.m. the highway was opened without restriction.
Though it may be weeks or even months before an official cause of the fire is released by investigators, Coffman said preliminary damage estimates suggest the fire destroyed millions of dollars worth of property.
In addition to the fire, Coffman said there was minor flooding reported near the hotel, as a result of fire suppression efforts. She added that Bishop Public Works was able to set up a pump to divert excess water away from homes and structures, and no water damage as a result of the fire has been reported.
As for the hotel itself, Coffman said that an inspector will be on site next week to evaluate the damage, but she believes that at least a portion of the building will have to be demolished and rebuilt.

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