The Comfort Suites in Astoria was evacuated Monday night after a gas leak and a fire threatened the building and displaced dozens of guests.
There were no reports of injuries and the cause of the gas leak is being investigated. A fire investigation team met at the site today.
Though it isn’t known yet what caused the leak or how the gas ignited, it is clear the situation could have been much worse, Astoria Fire Chief Ted Ames said.
“This could have been horrible,” Ames said. “We dodged a bullet. Everybody involved: the guests, the hotel, staff, owners, police, fire department. Everybody dodged a huge bullet.”
Comfort Suites General Manager Amy Gambino and her staff found rooms for guests at other hotels in Astoria and Warrenton. She said all of the hotel’s 75 rooms had been occupied at the time of the alarm.
“The safety of our guests is our top concern,” Gambino said.
Ames said the gas leak began near a meter at the back of the building on Lief Erikson Drive, facing the Columbia River, and extended a bit into the building. A fire started, the bulk of it outside, but flames reached the hotel’s laundry room. This part of the fire was extinguished after a water pipe burst and a ceiling sprinkler activated.
The pipe kept pumping water into the hotel, however. Ames said several inches of water covered the ground floor.
Maggie McKinlay of California was in Astoria hoping for a vacation. Instead, she stood in a queue with other guests Monday night, many of them in their pajamas and several barefoot, waiting for firefighters to lead them back to their rooms to collect their belongings.
McKinlay and her husband were staying in a room on the ground floor not far from where the gas leak started. “It sounded like a jet engine,” she said. “We heard it in our room. Over the TV, over everything.”