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

The state Fire Marshal’s Office continues to investigate the cause of the fire that destroyed a Kittery hotel this week as the medical examiner tries to identify the remains found in the most badly burned section of the building.

Fire marshals will continue to work the scene to try to determine the origin and cause of the fire, State Fire Marshal Richard McCarthy said Thursday. His office, which is leading the investigation, did not release any new information Friday about those efforts.

McCarthy has not said if the fire is considered suspicious but did say there is no investigation of the hotel owner.

The fire ripped through the Days Inn on the Route 1 Bypass on Wednesday afternoon. It took hours and crews from 16 departments in Maine and New Hampshire to contain and put it out, and more than 24 hours for investigators to locate the victim.

The state medical examiner is trying to identify the victim, whose body was found around 2:15 p.m. Thursday. McCarthy did not know if the victim was male or female and no one has contacted authorities to report a missing person.

Investigators initially said two people might have been unaccounted for, but the second person was found safe and away from the scene. They now believe everyone who had been staying or working at the hotel has been accounted for, including four out-of-state workers who were living there while working at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.


It was a challenge to determine how many people were in the building and who they were because the hotel owner did not keep a required guest log, Kittery Fire Chief David O’Brien said Thursday. The hotel office was destroyed, as were any records not stored online.

Hotel Owner Kamlesh Patel has been very cooperative, O’Brien said.

In 2018 and 2019, the hotel was closed for a lengthy period of time after local officials put the building under a closure order until multiple code violations were fixed. Those violations included problems with the installation of propane-fired heating systems, alarm systems that weren’t functioning, fire doors that didn’t close and issues with access and egress, O’Brien said.

Those violations were all corrected and the hotel was issued a certificate of occupancy in 2019. The hotel had not been inspected in the last couple of years, O’Brien said.

The hotel, which was valued at $1.7 million by the town, did not have a fire suppression or sprinkler system. There were working smoke alarms in the building.

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


The fire was the largest in town in decades and the first fatal fire there in about three years.

Fighting the fire was a challenge because the wood frame building was full of furniture and “lots of material to burn,” O’Brien said. Heavy winds fanned the flames, giving the fire a big start, he said.

“It is a firefighter’s nightmare with individual rooms and hallways and everything else,” he said. “Trust me when I say I was extremely hesitant when I sent my firefighters into the building to go make that initial primary search.”

During the first three or four minutes on scene, firefighters rushed into the building without a water line to try to get to a room that may have been occupied. They were almost there when the fire became too intense and they had to pull out, O’Brien said. He learned later no one was inside the room.

That part of the building is not where the victim was found, O’Brien said.

Now that the department’s work at the scene is over, attention will turn to helping the Kittery firefighters themselves. This was the first fatal fire for several young firefighters, O’Brien said Thursday.

“We will sit down, discuss it and have them understand that things like this happen and they did everything they could,” he said. Everyone will be offered counseling.

As investigators searched through the fire scene, firefighters were already busy dealing with other calls in town, including brush fires and car crashes, O’Brien said.

“We wake up in the morning, we move on and we continue,” he said.

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