Update : Hoover Days Inn Hotel Fire
Hoover Fire Department
UPDATE : Thursday, January 21, 2010 -
Hoover motel fire apparently started with incense burning in maintenance man's room, federal official says
By Val Walton--The Birmingham News
January 21, 2010, 5:31PM
The fire that killed four Mississippi college students at a Hoover Days Inn Saturday apparently started with a maintenance man burning incense in the room where he lived at the motel, a federal official said today.
The maintenance man, identified as 55-year-old Dhirajlal Bhagat, left his room with the incense burning and discovered the fire when he came back, said Jim Cavanaugh, the special agent in charge for the Alabama and Mississippi division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Bhagat tried to use a fire extinguisher to put the fire out, but it didn't work, Cavanaugh said. He then tried to use a phone at the hotel but could not get it to work either. He went upstairs and used another fire extinguisher, but his efforts were futile, Cavanaugh said.
The fire was so involved that there was no way he could have put it out with a fire extinguisher, Cavanaugh said.
Bhagat is in custody at the Hoover Jail. He has not been charged in relation to the fire but is being held on a charge of being in the country illegally. Bhagat is from India and had proper paperwork when he first came to work at the hotel, but he was denied a work authorization card in December 2007 after he reapplied, Cavanaugh said.
View entire Birmingham News story
Saturday, January 16, 2010 -
A fire swept through a two-story motel in central Alabama, killing four Mississippi college students who were trapped in their room, officials said Sunday.
The victims were students at Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Miss., which is about 90 miles west of Hoover, Ala, the site of the Days Inn fire. Officials didn't immediately know what started the blaze Saturday night, or where it began.
The victims were among those who made 911 calls to report the fire, Hoover Fire Department spokesman Rusty Lowe said. Firefighters knew the women were trapped in their second-floor room, but couldn't get to them because of the flames.
"Half of the hotel was on fire. The fire was very hot and it was just difficult to reach all the rooms to get to the victims," Lowe said.
Two of the victims were 18-year-old cousins. They were identified by officials and a relative as Alondan Turner and Catherine Muse, both of Cordova, Ala., which is about 30 miles north of Hoover.
The local fire department has requested help with the probe from state and federal agencies.
"The investigation will reveal a lot more," Low said, adding that determining the cause "will not be a quick process, due to the amount of precision which will be required."
The Mississippi University for Women was established in 1884 as the first public college for women in the U.S., according to the school's Web site.
A special thank you to Kevin Underwood for sharing these pictures from the fire...