Lone Steer Motel Burns Down | VideoMichelle San Miguel | 8/13/2012
At around 9:00 Sunday morning, firefighters were called to the Lone Steer Motel. About 25 people were inside when the fire began on the second floor. It didn`t take long before flames engulfed the entire building.
"We tried to make an attack inside when we knew the people were out, but we barely got inside and it vented through the roof and we had to get out and basically let it go," said Steele Fire Chief Stuart Thompson.
This popular roadside motel and bar off of I-94 had been a landmark in Steele since the 1970s. On Sunday morning, it turned into chaos when the owner began pounding on doors, telling people to get out. Some people even jumped out of their second story windows to safety.
"When I went out of my room and it was so hot, it was so hot and smoky that you couldn`t see nothing or where the steps were at. It was only a few feet from me," said Robert Mueller, who lived in the motel.
Police have interviewed tenants who say they lost pets in the fire. Fortunately, Mueller was able to save his dog. Mueller says he and his girlfriend had only seconds to run to safety after someone kicked open their door, yelling "Fire!"
"Just grabbed my clothes and run out the door. It was the only thing we could do. I didn`t have time to grab anything," he said. "All my money and my clothes and everything was in there."
This was actually the third fire reported at the Lone Steer since it was built. About two years ago, firefighters were called out to a fire in the kitchen that destroyed the restaurant.
Owners say they were just three weeks shy of reopening the restaurant.
"Yeah I want to rebuild. I don`t know how," said owner Mohammad Akhtar.
"Never seen anything like it. I mean we could have lost our lives because it was a matter of seconds if we would have never gotten out of our room. It was just lucky that somebody woke up and happened to smell the smoke," Mueller said.
A close call for the motel guests. For the owners and the town of Steele, they can only wonder what to do next.
The Red Cross is providing assistance to those who were displaced in Sunday`s fire. The Steele Police Chief says everyone has a place to stay overnight.
Several agencies are involved in the investigation, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, BCI, and the Kidder County`s State Attorney.