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February 24, 2020
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69 displaced in motel fire

(Firefighters stage one of several attacks on a fire that swept through the Torch Lite Inn in Santa Cruz early Sunday. Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

SANTA CRUZ — An early morning fire swept through a popular inn at the Beach Flats area of Santa Cruz Sunday sending guests scurrying into the darkness to safety, some of them in bare feet.

The two-alarm blaze broke out just after 2 a.m. at the Torch Lite Inn, 500 Riverside Ave. Initial callers to 9-1-1 reported seeing heavy smoke gushing from the roof of the complex that features numerous two-story buildings.

Santa Cruz Police were the first emergency personnel to arrive where they evacuated inn guests who were seen running from smoke-filled rooms.

Upon arrival, personnel from Santa Cruz Fire Department and Central Fire Protection District found a large two-story motel with heavy smoke coming from the roof and eaves, said Fire Chief James Frawley. Fire crews evacuated an additional 30 people from the fully occupied motel.

A second alarm was activated as incoming crews cut holes in the roof to allow superheated gases to escape from the attic where the fire was confirmed to be located, Frawley said. 

Firefighters fully extinguished the fire in about 45 minutes with all 69 occupants evacuated safely from the inn, which is situated just blocks from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

No injuries were reported.

Red Cross was called to the scene to assist with alternative overnight housing and food and water relief. All occupants were eventually escorted to their rooms to recover valuables and belongings. 

The fire was caused by an electrical malfunction, Frawley said.

Dozens of curious onlookers gathered at the fringes of the ordeal to watch the incident unfold.


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