|By Billy Davis
Batesville firefighters Friday morning beat back a rolling fire at the Ramada Limited that threatened to overtake the 50-room hotel.
The hotel is located at 695 Highway 6 East, near the intersection of the highway and Keating Road.
The fire likely started in the hotel laundry room, Fire Chief Tim Taylor said, shining the beam of a flashlight through the blackened, water-soaked room to show the fire damage.
The Ramada hotel forms an "L" with its rooms running south and west from a corner that contains the laundry room and a mechanical room.
The hotel mechanical room was also blackened from the fire.
Firefighters arrived at the hotel about 9:30 a.m. to find smoke pouring from the hotel’s southern end, escaping through the roof louvers like a row of chimney fires.
Ramada customer Bill Hanks said he was one of the first people to notice the fire. When he came out of his room to find a newspaper, he saw what appeared to be fog in the corner.
"It looked like fog, but of course it was too late in the morning to be fog," said Hanks, who was in town to watch the Ole Miss football game.
Hanks ran into the cloud of smoke and banged on the door of the room nearest the fire, Room 134, not knowing if someone was inside.
Inside the room, Pat Boals of Michigan heard the shouting and stuck his head outside the room to see smoke pouring from the mechanical room, which is located next door.
Boals said he quickly got dressed and escaped from the room, but the smoke was so thick that he slipped past Hanks when he ran out.
"I never saw him," Hanks said.
Batesville police officer Keith Calvert, who arrived at the fire scene prior to firefighters, said he waded into the smoke to help but mistakenly beat his flashlight on the mechanical room.
"I couldn’t see a thing," Calvert said.
In Boals’ room, pieces of insulation floated in an inch of water after firefighters tore into the ceiling to beat back the flames.
Fire inspector Joe Warren said the fire traveled the length of the southern section, pushing through the hotel’s ductwork above the rooms and toward the front desk and offices.
In the front offices, firefighters pushed their way through the ceiling and extinguished the rolling flames.
During his inspection of the fire damage, Taylor pointed to sections of the roof framing that sustained damage, saying the construction work was not built according to code.
"There’s supposed to be sheetrock there and there’s not, so the fire just shot on through," Taylor said.