Firemen from 14 departments battle EconoLodge fire in Cuba

Dave Marner

CUBA — A fire of undetermined origin destroyed much of the EconoLodge Motel along I-44 in Cuba on Thursday, bringing as many as 100 firemen from 14 area departments together to quickly bring it under control. No injuries were reported.

“(Cause of the) fire is listed as undetermined but there is nothing at all suspicious about the fire,” according to Mike O’Connell, communications director for the Missouri Department of Public Safety.

Josh Hall, an inspector for the Missouri State Fire Marshal’s office, said the fire began somewhere in the ceiling above the southeastern (front, right) corner of the motel’s main complex. It quickly spread through the attic area and pushed generally in a northern direction over the motel rooms.

“They made an impressively quick stop,” said Hall. No rooms were occupied in the damaged section of the motel, he said.

Cuba’s fire department was dispatched to the 200 block of Route P, the north service road of I-44, at 7:34 p.m. for a call of “smoke coming from a vent,” according to a release from their chief, Michael Plank. “Upon arrival of the first arriving unit at 1945 (7:45 p.m.) the crew observed heavy fire showing from side A (front) of the building as well as a established fire in the attic with fire through the roof as well.”

Cuba sounded a second alarm on arrival at 7:45 p.m. as water supply lines were set up including pumping operations from the Pizza Hut parking lot west of the motel. 

Plank described their initial attack of the attic fire, noting firemen used “defensive master stream operations.” As crews arrived from as far away as Doolittle, Phelps and Pulaski counties, St. Clair and the Boles District, firemen starting making entry to rooms on both sides to determine how far the fire had advanced, Plank reported. “Once crews were past the active fire, crews were able stop the advance past their positions by aggressive interior operations.”

Eight Owensville firemen and members of the Beaufort-Leslie Fire Protection District were among units responding to the third-alarm call which was sounded around 8:21 p.m. “They made a great stop,” said Owensville Chief Curtis Aytes. “There was a lot of manpower on the scene in short time.”

OFD member John Dixon said the crew he was with began helping with room-to-room inspections on the west side, “poking holes in ceilings,” to see how far the fire had advanced. Beaufort-Leslie firemen were tasked with overhauling and extinguishing hot spots up in the front of the building.