Police were investigating the possibility Tuesday that a fire at the Regal Inn on South Church was started by an apartment-based meth lab gone awry.
About 50 residents were forced from their homes Tuesday morning so firefighters could extinguish the flames, motel manager Dayna Martin said.
Police spokesman Kyle Evans said the Murfreesboro Police and Fire departments are "investigating the possibility that a meth lab is the causation of the fire (Tuesday) morning."
"We are basing this investigation on witness statements and evidence gathered at the scene," Evans said. "We also have statements from the occupant of the room, who has since been transported to the Middle Tennessee Medical Center emergency department (for burns)."
Evans said police will file charges against the occupant if it is determined "that he was manufacturing methamphetamine."
"We gathered evidence at the scene that will be sent to the TBI for analysis," Evans said. "We will not be releasing the name of the injured man at this time."
Murfreesboro Fire Marshal Ken Honeycutt said fire crews began arriving on the scene just before 7 a.m.
"When the firefighters arrived, we had one unit, room 404, fully involved," he said.
With the possibility of the meth lab, crews were extra cautious about entering the area.
"Anytime we have a fire we are always cautious about what we may encounter when we go into any kind of structure, whether it be a hotel or single-family structure," he said, later adding a hazardous materials truck and crew were on the scene as a "precautionary" measure.
Honeycutt said at least one firefighter was hurt while fighting the fire, suffering a broken finger.
The inn, located near Interstate 24, that caters to both overnight travelers, as well as longer-staying guests, caught fire just after dawn, according to police.
Tenants in 26 units were moved to different rooms at the inn, although firefighters contained most of the damage to a second-story room. Some rooms below it suffered water damage.
"There was not a lot of panic going on," Martin said. "I was surprised at how wonderful everyone transitioned."
She was not aware that anyone had any injuries.
Most of the long-term guests will be able to return to their previous rooms within a couple of days, Martin said. A few will be relocated to comparable units while repairs are made.
Long-term tenant Thurston Crane said he is worried about losing food because power was shut off to the involved units. He has about $400 to $500 worth of food in a freezer and another $200 worth of food in a refrigerator in the room he shares with his wife, Tabitha, and their 5-year-old daughter, Leann. Much of the food includes chicken and fish he needs for his strict diet after recent open-heart surgery.
"It made everybody mad that we're all having to move out," Crane said.
Regal Inn's manager hopes local churches and nonprofit agencies will be able to help the tenants. Those wanting to help can contact her by calling the motel at 615-896-3210.
Regal Inn is located at 2029 S. Church St. in Murfreesboro.
Mar 31, 2010 | ...
BY MARK BELL • MBELL@DNJ.COM • March 31, 2010
A man suspected of causing a fire at the Regal Inn Hotel on South Church Street Tuesday admitted to police that he was running a meth lab that started the fire, according to police.Jeffrey Hicks, 30, a registered sex offender who lived in Room 404 at the hotel, hasn’t been charged with anything yet, but police say it’s only a matter of time.“As long as he is in the hospital, no action is going to be taken, but upon his release he will be facing criminal charges from the fire department as well as the police department,” police spokesman Kyle Evans said, adding a charge manufacture of methamphetamine will be included.Evans said several items consistent with meth cooking were found in Hicks’ room.“Some of the pieces were partially destroyed in the fire,” Evans said. “Several pieces of the evidence are being sent to the TBI for analysis.”Murfreesboro Police Officer Terry Spence, who wrote a report on the fire for MPD, said he was dispatched to the scene of the burning building to assist the Murfreesboro Fire Department around 6:50 a.m. Tuesday.When he arrived on the scene he noticed a man whose face was covered with “soot,” he reported.Spence said he approached the man, whom he later found out was Jeffrey Hicks, and asked him if he had been burned in the fire. The man reportedly replied “I was cooking meth in there.”Hicks is no stranger to the law. He was charged with attempted child rape in 1995 and was still on probation at the time of the fire.
Read more of this story in Thursday's print edition of The Daily News Journal.
Article porvided by The Daily News Journal. http://www.dnj.com