Picking up the pieces: The day after the Craig Motel fire | CraigDailyPress.com

Picking up the pieces: The day after the Craig Motel fire

Collin Smith
The scene inside the Craig Motel on Wednesday afternoon after Craig Fire/Rescue and other agencies extinguished the fire was one of devastation. The Craig fire department, West Routt Fire Department, Craig Police Department, Moffat County Sheriff's Office, state and city road and bridge departments and Colorado State Patrol responded to the scene.
Shawn McHugh

Help available

Anyone displaced by the fire Wednesday at the Craig Motel can call the American Red Cross at 1-800-824-6615 and get in touch with a local Moffat County representative.

Any community members who would like to donate money to help those stricken by disasters can do so through http://www.redcross.org.

Before the fire Wednesday at the Craig Motel, Lisa Wu had a home.

She worked as the manager and lived in the motel’s office with her family, including her three-week-old son.

The office was quiet Thursday, with the blackened rubble of rooms 5 through 21 surrounding it, as Wu and her boyfriend spoke to a State Farm Insurance agent over the phone.

Wu said she doesn’t know anything about the motel’s future, other than that an insurance adjuster will come visit the property today or next week.

She does know she will have to find another place to stay. Although the manager’s office is detached from the guest rooms that caught fire, the motel’s gas line is shut off, and there is no heat and no hot water.

“I don’t know where I’ll live right now,” Wu said. “I don’t know anything.”

Although official reports state no one was injured in the fire, several people were displaced, said Dan Bingham, with the American Red Cross.

Most of the Craig Motel appears uninhabitable. The fire, caused by a faulty wall heater in Room 11, scorched the majority of the rooms and caused part of the roof to collapse.

At least 10 of the motel’s former residents found their way to the Independent Life Center at 483 Yampa Ave., where the Red Cross set up an area for temporary assistance Thursday.

“We’ve helped quite a few people today,” Bingham said. “What we do is provide minimal financial assistance and what’s called soft assistance. Where local groups and organizations have ways to help, we get people in touch with them.”

Among those displaced were people who lived at the motel full time and traveling business people, many of whom lost nearly everything they own.

Bingham said aid will be available to all who need it, and he encouraged anyone who suffered losses from the fire to call the Red Cross at 1-800-824-6615.

Any community members who would like to donate money to help those stricken by disasters can do so through http://www.redcross.org, Bingham added.

The Craig Motel has been a local fixture since 1927.

The property has had multiple owners and multiple names through the decades, but it seems to always have been there in one form or another, said Loretta Counts, a 75-year-old Moffat County resident who grew up locally.

The motel set the scene for several major events in her and her family’s lives.

Counts said she lived there on weekdays as a high school student. Her family had a house outside of town, and that was the best way for her to go to school.

Her husband, Eugene, was born there March 17, 1930, before Craig ever had a hospital.

“No, there wasn’t a hospital,” Counts said. “But there was a motel.”

The two of them met for the first time at the motel. It was a blind date, but one that led to a marriage that is about to reach its 60th anniversary.

“I was a young girl then, still in school, but I dropped out of school to marry Gene and I haven’t looked back,” Counts said.

Recently, the motel’s owners have invested more money into the property.

Wu’s boyfriend, Jimmy Dang, who also co-owns Ocean Pearl with the motel’s owner, has helped fix things up.

As he stood in the motel office with Wu’s baby son cradled in his arms, Dang recounted how the events of Wednesday morning unfolded.

He was working in an empty unit when smoke started coming out of the ceiling, he said.

Dang called 911, confused and alarmed, and told the cleaning person to open the door of every nearby room to see where the smoke was coming from.

“Then the police came, and everything was everywhere,” Dang said.

The confusion from that initial moment of panic still lingered as Dang thought about the motel’s future.

“Right now, I don’t know anything because the insurance company has not come yet,” he said. “Everything is money. Right now, how can I know?”

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com.

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