Fire consumes Vacationaire hotel: Guests have narrow escape
Firefighters responded to a blaze at Vacationaire Resort, north of Park Rapids on Island Lake, on Feb. 23. Crews arrived at 5:20 a.m.
Five tankers drew water from nearby Hay Creek for five hours to contain the blaze, according to
Park Rapids Fire Chief Don Hoffmann.
"We moved a lot of water," he said. The fire was "too far advanced" to save the historic structure.
Twenty-one Park Rapids firefighters were on the scene, along with mutual aid from Carsonville, Menahga and Lake George.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Three rooms of the 12-unit motel were rented at the time, and all guests got out safely.
Seconds to spare
Casey Kimball, 23, believes he barely escaped with his life.
"If I'd stayed in there another 10, 15, 30 seconds, I probably wouldn't be here," Kimball said in a phone interview. He's currently recovering at CHI St. Joseph's Health.
He and Kendall Anderson, both from Park Rapids, were staying in unit 14 on the second floor of Vacationaire Resort. Kimball woke up Friday morning to use the bathroom. The bed faces a couple of windows.
"When I looked outside, there were flames everywhere. We just had to get out of there," he said.
Kimball woke up Anderson.
"I grabbed all my stuff and just started running. I wasn't going to die," Kimball said.
Anderson fled, too, receiving burns on her hands. Kimball's burns were more extensive and severe.
"I got third degree burns on my arms. There's no skin left on the bottom of my feet," he said. Carpet in the hallway and on the stairs "melted onto my feet."
Second-degree burns cover his back, all the way down past his tailbone.
"My left arm is burnt from my neck all the way to my wrist, my big thumb. My right arm isn't too bad," he said.
"All I know is Scotty Pfeifer is the one who called the fire marshall. He was the first one," Kimball said. "I was outside standing on my bare feet for 10, 15 minutes before the owners of Clancy's woke up and let me in the villa right across the street."
He was taken by ambulance to CHI St. Joseph's Health and underwent skin graft surgery Friday.
"They took skin off my hip and put it on the bottom of my feet because I had no skin left on the bottom of my feet," Kimball said.
Doctors planned to remove bandages Tuesday to see how the healing is progressing, he said, adding he's in a lot of pain whenever the medication wears off.
Kimball lost a 1986 Dodge Ram truck, ice-fishing gear and 2003 Polaris SKS snowmobile that had been parked in front of the hotel.
The traumatic experience gives him nightmares, making it difficult for him to fall asleep.
Second floor collapsed
Mike Marboe, a neighbor, got up Friday morning when he saw flashing lights.
"I threw back the curtains and oh, my gosh," he said. "It was fully engulfed by the time I got up."
He snapped a photo from his balcony.
"We could feel the heat. We saw sparks fly. We're lucky we had snow or the neighborhood could've gone up," Marboe said. "It's a good thing the fire trucks came. Trees were on fire. We heard the roof fall in."
He sympathized with everyone involved.
"It's a historic place," Marboe said.
Plans to rebuild
Tim and Nikki Clancy have owned Vacationaire since April 2016.
On Friday morning, they were awakened by someone who alerted them to the fire.
In a matter of seconds, the entire, two-story building was engulfed, said Tim, adding that initial reports indicate the blaze started in unit 16.
The Clancys are thankful all the guests escaped the devastating fire and are grateful for the outpouring of well-wishes.
They definitely plan to rebuild the hotel, originally built in the 1930s or 1940s.
The restaurant and five-room villa at Vacationaire Resort were undamaged and remain open for business with normal hours.