CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) -An abandoned hotel scheduled for demolition caught on fire Tuesday night on Gateway Boulevard.
Chatham Fire and Savannah Fire Rescue both responded to the scene. Chatham Fire was dispatched at about 8:40 p.m. to the Travel Inn Hotel at 8 West Gateway Blvd.
Firefighters say the conditions were so bad on the inside they had to end their search early for people inside. Savannah Fire believes lightning struck the Inn. More than 50 Chatham EMS and Savannah firefighters spent hours fighting the flames.
“There were three more buildings behind that one, so there was a little bit of an exposure issue. I mean, the largest hazard other than that, with it being a vacant property, the grass, everything else is about five feet high behind the building,” said District Chief, Chris Mills, Chatham EMS.
First responders immediately worried that people were inside when they made it on scene. The abandoned hotel is known as a local squatting spot.
“The largest fear - when we pulled up, when we figured out what building the fire was in - that there could have been 10, 20, 30 people or more inside of the building.”
Acting Lt. Ren Hill with Chatham EMS and another firefighter, Johnny Williams, faced the flames to rescue a woman staying on the first floor. Unfortunately, the team wasn’t able to check every room inside until after the fire was put out.
“We made it almost all the way there, but fire conditions started getting really bad. The ceiling started coming down and we weren’t able to finish our search due to that," Lt. Hill said. “There was a slight fear that, in the rooms we couldn’t check, there might have been people in there. When we didn’t find anybody, it was definitely a relief.”
It was a relief firefighters are thankful for in being able to save a woman’s life.
“That’s our job. Life safety and property conservation is what we do.”
The hotel owner said the building was scheduled to be demolished on Wednesday.
After the blaze was extinguished, Savannah Fire kept a unit on scene over night to ensure there were no remaining hot spots.
Local business owners we spoke to in the area say it’s been abandoned for years, and they’ve seen nothing but trouble since. There is no word yet on how this impacts demolitions scheduled by the city.
Savannah Fire is still investigating.