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Investigators determine cause of hotel fire

By KESQ & CBS Local 2 News Staff, newsline3@kesq.com
Published On: Apr 28 2014 02:10:25 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 29 2014 11:50:00 AM CDT
PALM DESERT, Calif. -

Investigators have determine the cause of a 4 alarm fire at the Marriott Fairfield Inn off of Highway 111 and Fred Waring Drive in Palm Desert that ignited on Monday afternoon.

Officials said the blaze started after electrical equipment on the roof malfunctioned.

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The fire broke out around noon and the hotel quickly became fully engulfed in flames. Officials with Cal Fire said 35 hotel rooms were occupied.  All of the guests and 16 employees were evacuated safely. 

The roof on the right side of the building collapsed. Fortunately no injuries were reported.

It took firefighters four hours to extinguish the flames. The damage is estimated at about $8 million. But, Cal Fire estimates $6 million in damage was prevented.

"This has been too much, but we are OK that's what we care about," said hotel guest Sureleigh Silliphant.

For the last 6 months, the Sillophants have called the Fairfield Inn home.

"I go out one hour take him to the chiropractor around the corner and we are coming back on my way to starbucks and I look up and there is this black billowing smoke and I said, 'Oh my God Lee, I think that could be our hotel,'" said Sureleigh Silliphant.

Employees tell us just before noon they noticed smoke coming from an air conditioning unit.  They tried to hold it back with fire extinguishers while the guests evacuated. 

"I pulled on the alarm and started knocking on every single door and then the deputies showed up and started helping me go door knocking," said assistant general manger Alexsis Moreno.

The flames quickly overtook the attic, sending thick black smoke billowing into the sky.  The roof started to collapse forcing fire crews back.  

"Due to the increase in temperatures our guys our getting beat up really quickly so we are rotating them out with fresh crews," said Cal Fire Captain Scott Visyak.

"We just stood outside and watched the flames go through our roof where we call home, because we have all been working here so long," said Moreno. 

Everyone got out OK, which is miraculous considering people occupied 112 rooms in the hotel the night before. 

"I think this is a tragedy but I think that we are very fortunate that Stagecoach is over, I imagine everybody checked out at the right time," said onlooker Kim McLaughlin.

The older hotel just went through a complete renovation including a new sprinkler system, but the fire started on the roof above the sprinklers. 

The Sillophants stayed on the third floor right where the fire did the most damage.

"Everything is in that room other than our car, I've got my handbag, I've got some ID, we're OK, he [her husband] wasn't left behind and that's all I care about, that I was with him," said Sillophant.

Guests were moved to other Marriott hotels in the area. 

Once the fire was out, crews went room by room salvaging what personal items they could.

Over 100 firefighters responded to the blaze.

As of Tuesday morning, an employee told our stations that workers will continue to be paid for two weeks, but after that, the future remains unclear. 

We also confirmed that the Sillophant's were fortunate as their personal belongings were untouched by the fire.

News Channel 3 & CBS Local 2 will bring you more information as it becomes available.

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