Suspicious fires break out at D.C. hotel
Many AIDS-quilt visitors evacuatedOctober 13, 1996
Web posted at: 9:30 p.m. EDT
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Investigators are probing a series of suspicious fires that forced the evacuation of more than 1,000 guests from the Omni Shoreham hotel and injured five early Sunday.
The 772-room hotel was almost full because of a large number of visitors to Washington for the weekend display of the AIDS quilt. Other guests were attending a rally by Latino groups near the White House.
Fire officials on the scene said four separate fires were discovered, starting just after 3 a.m. EDT, that sent smoke billowing up stairwells, cutting off exits and causing general confusion.
Arson is suspected. A truck with officers from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms was at the scene since the suspicious blazes occurred in a public building.
The largest fire was reported in a sub-basement vault where the hotel stores surplus linens, mattresses and upholstered furniture. The last fire extinguished, it offered no direct access for fire hoses and no ventilation.
Capt. Alvin Carter, spokesman for the district fire department, said two fires apparently were set in sub- basements and one was discovered in each of the hotel's east and west wings.
"Whoever may have set the fires was very familiar with the layout of the building," Carter said. "They were unconnected and ignited in hard-to-reach areas of the building. Also, the suspect had to know how to get access to these areas without drawing attention to himself."
Police said three firemen and two hotel guests were treated for injuries, including a broken leg.
The hotel near the National Zoo has hosted numerous major conventions, including last month's International Monetary Fund/World Bank meeting.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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