A firefighter douses smoldering debris on Thursday, the day after a fire destroyed the Days Inn on the Route 1 Bypass in Kittery, claiming the life of one person. The state medical examiner is trying to identify the victim. The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

State fire investigators say one person died in the large hotel fire in Kittery on Wednesday.

Investigators found the body around 2:15 p.m. Thursday, State Fire Marshal Richard McCarthy said during a news conference about an hour later. He believes everyone who had been staying at the Days Inn on the Route 1 Bypass has been accounted for.

Initially, fire investigators thought that two people were unaccounted for, but on Thursday night the town said that the second missing person was “found safe and away from the scene.”

McCarthy said the state medical examiner is still trying to identify the victim. He did not know if the victim was male or female and said that no one has contacted Kittery authorities to report a missing person.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

“Our investigators will remain on site until we come to a resolution (regarding the cause),” McCarthy said.


Investigators did not know if the victim was in a room or a hallway when they became trapped by the fire.

“It’s impossible to say exactly where the victim was (in the hotel) due to the destruction caused by the fire,” Kittery Fire Chief David O’Brien said during the news conference. “It was in the area of the biggest burn of the building.”

The fire that destroyed the Days Inn broke out around noon Wednesday. It quickly engulfed the large building. As people evacuated, doors were left open, allowing the strong wind to quickly spread the fire throughout the structure. Fire crews from 16 departments in Maine and New Hampshire helped truck in water to fight the fire.

Firefighters were still on the scene 24 hours later to put out hot spots. Investigators returned to the scene Thursday morning to comb the rubble for clues about how it started.

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

The hotel was built in 1956, according to town records, and was not required to have a sprinkler system, which is mandated in state law for all hotels built since 1992. Older hotels are required to have approved smoke, heat or fire detection systems.


Hotel owner Kamlesh Patel on May 5 filed for a review of his proposal to redevelop the Days Inn property. His plan called for demolishing the hotel and replacing it with a 107-room, four-story building. If those plans are approved by the Kittery Planning Board, the building will be required to have a fire suppression system.

Patel said he did not want to speak with a reporter about the fire or his plans for the hotel when reached by phone Thursday.

Five years before the fire, the town issued notices of violations for a number of issues at the hotel related to improper installation of water heaters, fire code violations and ventilation issues. The hotel worked with code enforcement staff to resolve those issues and a final unconditional certificate of occupancy was issued late in 2019, Town Manager Kendra Amaral said.

There were no known violations at the hotel when the fire broke out, Amaral said.

A firefighter douses smoldering debris Thursday at The Days Inn on the Route 1 Bypass in Kittery. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer


The number of people staying at the hotel before the fire was not clear to fire officials who were trying to make sure everyone was accounted for. Patel told a New Hampshire TV station that 13 or 14 rooms were occupied.


Firefighters attempted to get to a room that may have been occupied by at least one person but were unable to because of the flames. O’Brien said firefighters were within two doors of the room before they had to retreat. That section of the building is now rubble, he said.

O’Brien appeared frustrated Wednesday night when he told reporters that he was struggling to identify all of the hotel guests because the innkeeper’s records were not up to date. He said some people were living at the hotel, but he did not know how many.

“You would certainly think that a hotel that would be having people coming in and living in it would have some kind of idea, but in this case they did not,” he said. “It makes it very challenging to determine if we have everybody. It makes it very challenging to determine where we need to search. It’s very hard.”

Four Puget Sound Naval Shipyard employees who are working at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard were staying at the hotel, but were at work when the fire started. They have since moved to new lodging, said Danna Eddy, a shipyard spokesperson.

No one with a hotel voucher through York County Community Action Corp. – which assists county residents with a variety of services, including housing – was staying at the Days Inn, the organization said.



The fire was one of the largest in Kittery in recent decades and fighting it depended heavily on mutual aid from fire departments in Maine and New Hampshire.

It was Kittery’s first fatal fire in three years, and O’Brien said he will bring in a chaplain to provide counseling to some of the department’s younger firefighters.

Kittery police officers were first to arrive on the scene, followed immediately by firefighters. O’Brien said firefighters got to the hotel four minutes after being dispatched. By then, the fire was already widespread.

“The fire outgrew our water supply instantly,” he said.

Within a half-hour, O’Brien struck a fifth alarm, bringing mutual aid from all across the Seacoast.

One of the biggest challenges firefighters faced was the wind, which O’Brien said was gusting over 30 mph. Flames spread to nearby woods and threatened neighboring properties, including the Kittery Physical Therapy Office and Coastal Fitness health club. Residents of the neighborhood near the hotel were asked to bring flammable items from their porches inside and to use a hose to spray down their yards.


The fire danger in York County was high on Wednesday and remained high on Thursday, according to the York County Emergency Management Agency.

Kittery town officials shared a warning about the fire danger on the town’s Facebook page and described how firefighters had been working at the fire scene for more than 24 hours.

“They are undoubtedly exhausted and drained but remain focused on their continued fire response. The best way to support our public safety members today is by being mindful of the fire dangers and saving any burning, backyard fires, beach fires, etc., for another day,” town officials said.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.

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