Rabbit Ears owner: Fire was electrical

Greg Koehler says officials still investigating Rabbit Ears incident

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— A fire that started in Room 106 at the Rabbit Ears Motel on Saturday evening probably was electrical, motel owner Greg Koehler said Sunday.

“We’re still not exactly sure, but we think it may be a bathroom fan motor,” he said.

Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue officials were at the motel investigating Sunday, he said. The fire was called in to emergency responders at about 8:25 p.m. Saturday. The motel was evacuated, but no one was injured. The room was empty at the time, except for a dog in a kennel. The dog was unharmed.

A police officer who responded was hospitalized for smoke inhalation. Steamboat Springs Police Department officers again declined to release his name Sunday, and Steamboat Fire Marshal Jay Muhme did not return a call seeking comment.

The fire started in the bathroom of Room 106, Koehler said. He said he never saw flames but “the smoke was incredible.” He and the police officer who was injured tried to put out the fire with a garden hose before firefighters arrived.

“He kept telling me stay back, stay back, and I was actually the one trying to get the hose in there so I could get to it, and he kept telling me to stay back,” Koehler said. “Gosh, I hope he’s all right.”

An insurance adjuster is scheduled to visit the motel today to assess the damage.

“Thankfully, the damage is not as bad as we once thought,” Koehler said. “There was no structural damage. The bathroom’s obviously destroyed.”

The motel’s 33 rooms were full Saturday night, he said, and Rabbit Ears employees had to scramble to find other rooms for customers. Koehler said some went home, some went camping, some stayed with friends and others were put up at hotels including The Steamboat Grand.

“My staff worked really hard to get everybody in an alternative property, and we got everybody settled in, so everybody was taken care of to the best of their ability,” he said.

There was no other damage to the motel, Koehler said, except for a window in a nearby room that emergency responders had to break to enter. There also is a lingering smoke odor the motel is working to eliminate, he said.

Koehler said most of the bathroom fans are less than three years old. He said the fire troubled him because he’s always concerned about safety and maintenance.

“It’s hard on me,” he said.

Koehler said the people in the room had been checking on the dog periodically. They came by at 7 p.m. Saturday, he said, and everything was fine. They returned to the motel at about 10:30 p.m., after the fire was extinguished.

Koehler also expressed concern about the emergency response time. He said Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue officials were out on other calls and a truck had to come in from Steamboat II.

“They did a good job, but when you’re in this situation on this side of the coin, it seems like hours,” Koehler said.

He said he plans to address the issue with the city.

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