More than two dozen people were forced out of their homes on Sunday after part of a residential hotel in Vallejo went up in flames.
The three-alarm fire started around 9:30 a.m. at the Travel Inn near I-80 and the Magazine Street exit, according to Vallejo Fire Spokesman Danny Gutierrez.
It prompted panicked wake up calls for residents.
“My brother was in the bathroom and he heard someone say fire outside so he woke us up,” Trenton Bernhard said. “We started banging on people’s doors to tell them that there was a fire.”
Some residents left with nothing, but others like Tina Wilson tried to beat the inevitable.
“I literally started grabbing piles of clothing and tossing them over the balcony,” she said. “I went in two twice and by the time I went back in for the third time to try to grab anything else I was like, this is too dangerous. My whole room was engulfed in flames and smoke so I just left.”
Adults and children escaped, but a cat died in the fire, according to Gutierrez. He said three people were treated for smoke inhalation and a few animals remain unaccounted for. Another cat snuggled into the arms of a rescuing firefighter. Investigators said they believe the fire started in Room 131.
“When the flames spread, they spread to an upper balcony which had a fuel can that was being stored there,” Gutierrez said. “That is what accounted for rapid spread of the fire in all the other adjacent units.”
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
The Travel Inn houses short term and long term residents. Management said they had been trying to improve the rooms for tenants. They also said the building is up to code and that there are smoke detectors.
Still, roughly 30 to 40 residents are left looking for another place to live.
“We have a lot of family and friends that are reaching out and helping us right now so as I have my life, I’ll come back,” Wilson said. “I’m not worried about that.”
The Red Cross is assisting people who were displaced by the fire. Lost animals are being taken to the Humane Society of the North Bay in Vallejo. The organization said they have received five Chihuahuas and two turtles.