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Motel owner believes fire that partially gutted business was arson

<i>WLOS</i><br/>Fire partially guts Macon County motel
Fire partially guts Macon County motel

By Rex Hodge

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    MACON COUNTY, North Carolina (WLOS) — Authorities are investigating a late-night fire that gutted part of a motel in Macon County. No one was seriously injured, but guests had to scramble to find other places to stay.

The Macon County Fire Marshal’s Office said the fire at the Relax Inn displaced 11 occupants, one of them having to be treated for smoke inhalation.

A flurry of calls came in to 911 late Sunday night about the motel fire on Georgia Road.

“I was in the bathroom, and I smelled like smoke,” Kristy Rhodes said.

Rhodes, from Georgia, had been staying at the inn with her husband and seven dogs. There was no fire in the rooms in her section, but she said the smoke was bad.

“I was meeting with Red Cross, and they had to call EMS because I literally could not breathe. It was like my lungs were feeling like they were on fire,” she said.

Rhodes said the Red Cross has helped.

“They gave us, like, a debit card-type of thing with money on it,” she said.

The Red Cross also arranged sleeping quarters for displaced motel guests at a nearby community center, but Rhodes had the dogs to think about.

“Some of us slept in our cars. Some of us didn’t sleep anywhere,” she said.

Rhodes said she doesn’t know how the fire started.

“It started out back, that’s all I know,” she said.

Rhodes said there was no warning from smoke detectors.

“I have no idea what’s going on or what is going on because the smoke detector is individual. They are not connected with the line or alarm,” Relax Inn owner Jayesh Patel said.

He believes the fire was no accident and is connected to drug activity in the area.

“I think that that’s an arson, yeah, that somebody did it on purpose,” Patel said.

He has insurance but is assessing whether to continue with the business.

For Rhodes, her husband and dogs, it’s a return to Georgia, and, for now, a stay with some friends.

“I got to get out of here,” she said.

The Macon County Fire Marshal’s Office said the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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