At least one and possibly two people remained unaccounted for Wednesday night following a five-alarm fire that destroyed a hotel in Kittery earlier in the day.

Kittery police officers were the first to arrive and immediately began evacuating the Days Inn, 85 Route 1 Bypass, shortly after noon.

The hotel owner had told WMUR-TV that 13 or 14 rooms were rented to guests and that everyone inside the building made it out and was accounted for.

But in a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Kittery Fire Chief David O’Brien indicated it will take investigators some time before they can determine if everyone made it out of the hotel.

“It is a total loss. There is nothing left of the building,” O’Brien told reporters.

In a followup news conference Wednesday night, O’Brien urged anyone with information about the people, who were living at the hotel, to contact the Kittery Police Department. O’Brien said there were people living at the hotel “long term,” possibly including some shipyard workers.


The fire chief said he was struggling to identify all the hotel guests because the innkeeper’s records were not up to date. O’Brien said he doesn’t know how many people were living there at the time of the fire.

O’Brien said firefighters entered the burning building without water lines to try to reach a second-floor room to search for one or two people who might have been trapped, but heat and flames drove them back when they were about two rooms away.

“At that point in time, when they said they could not make entrance into that room, or anything close to that room, we went to a strictly defensive mode,” O’Brien said.

Firefighters battle a smoky fire that destroyed a Days Inn in Kittery. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

One firefighter was treated on the scene for a laceration. A bystander was treated for smoke inhalation and transported to York Hospital, the town said. The bystander’s condition is not known, but the town said the individual was conscious and alert.

O’Brien said strong wind gusts and a lack of water near the site proved to be the biggest challenges to firefighters. The wind blew smoke and embers around the area and reignited the hotel roof. Tanker trucks from about a dozen communities transported water to the fire scene. Approximately 15 fire departments from Maine, New Hampshire, Pease New Hampshire Fire Emergency Services and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Fire Department responded to the fire.

When Kittery firefighters arrived, O’Brien said, people, presumably guests, were trying to get back inside the burning hotel to retrieve belongings. O’Brien commended the Kittery Police Department for managing the crowd while he came up with a plan for fighting the fire.


The Days Inn did not have a fire suppression or sprinkler system, but there were working smoke alarms in the building, O’Brien said.

Flames also spread to nearby woods and threatened nearby properties including the Kittery Physical Therapy office operated by York Hospital and the Coastal Fitness health club, both at 75 Route 1 Bypass.

Angela Schultze, owner of Coastal Fitness, said her general manager texted her just after noon to let her know the gazebo in the parking lot was burning. Schultze said the fitness club, which had about 30 patrons inside, was evacuated.

Firefighters work at a Days Inn in Kittery on Wednesday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

In a parking lot across the street, about a dozen boats were moved away from the blaze after their plastic covers started to melt.

Kittery resident Steve Workman, who lives around the corner from the hotel, said he feared the wind might drive the fire into his neighborhood.

“I hate to think how bad this could have been,” Workman said. “Still, it’s heartbreaking to see someone lose their business.”


O’Brien told reporters that investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating.

Motorists were asked to avoid using the Route 1 Bypass in Kittery while crews fought the fire. Videos shared on social media by people passing by show heavy black smoke and the Days Inn engulfed in flames.

Days Inn is valued at nearly $1.7 million by the town of Kittery. The hotel, which was built in 1956, was purchased by the Kittery Motor Inn in May 1994, according to tax records.

In its news release, the town of Kittery said that Kamlesh Patel on May 5 filed for a sketch plan review of his proposal to redevelop the Days Inn property. The plan was scheduled to be reviewed by the Kittery Planning Board at its May 25 meeting.

Patel’s plan calls for demolishing the existing hotel and replacing it with a new 107-room, four-story building. Patel has not applied for a demolition permit yet.

Shannon Moss, spokesperson for the State Fire Marshal’s Office, said investigators are working with the hotel’s owners to try to determine how many people were staying at the hotel and who is still unaccounted for. Moss said investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s Office plan to spend Thursday at the fire scene to determine what caused the fire.

Staff Writer Hannah LaClaire contributed to this story.

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