Fire guts south Modesto motel

01/17/2013 6:25 AM

01/17/2013 11:28 PM

A south Modesto motel suffered heavy fire damage early Thursday after a candle was knocked over, authorities said.

Ceres Fire Battalion Chief Michael Lillie said firefighters were called to Shiva's Motel in the 700 block of South Ninth Street at 2:58 a.m. on a report of a fire in one of the units. Though a fire station is just around the corner from the motel, by the time crews arrived, the fire had spread to three more units.

Occupants got out safely and no firefighters were injured, Lillie said. Fourteen people who lived at the motel were displaced. Lillie estimated damage to the structure and contents at $150,000.

It took crews about an hour to extinguish the blaze. They spent several hours mopping up and clearing hot spots.

Lillie said the fire started when a woman knocked over a candle she was using for heat. The candle fell onto blankets. She tried to extinguish the fire with clothes, but it quickly spread.

Lillie called the fire a reminder of what a bad idea it is to use candles for heat, or to burn them unattended.

Richard Woodman lives in a unit that escaped fire damage but had damage from smoke.

Woodman said his wife, Terry, woke him up saying she heard something outside. When they looked out, they saw the fire.

"There were no smoke alarms or anything," he said. Several hours after the fire, he, his wife and his brother stood wrapped in blankets trying to keep warm as firefighters finished their work.

Shiva's Motel was the site of another incident last year — a man was shot to death outside one of the rooms. Investigators in that case made an arrest but later released the suspect without pressing charges.

Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or (209) 578-2343.

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