Cause of Rabbit Ears Motel fire unknown

Owner awaits damage estimate from insurance companies

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— The cause of the fire Saturday night at the Rabbit Ears Motel still is undetermined.

Steamboat Springs Fire Res­cue Fire Marshal Jay Muhme said the investigation into the fire’s cause hasn’t begun. Muhme said he’s waiting for the insurance companies for the motel and motel guests and the manufacturers of appliances used by the motel to arrive to evaluate the damage.

“We just haven’t had a chance to start in there,” he said. “We want to make sure all the interested parties see the same thing everybody else does.”

Muhme said investigators likely would start working to determine the cause of the fire this weekend or early next week.

Steamboat Springs Fire Res­cue emergency responders were called about 8:25 p.m. Saturday to the fire, which started in the bathroom of Room 106. The motel guests weren’t there, but a dog inside a kennel in the room was evacuated unharmed. The rest of the motel guests also were evacuated, and no one was injured. Some were able to return to their rooms later that night.

A Steamboat Springs Police Department officer who tried to extinguish the fire with a garden hose before emergency responders arrived was hospitalized for smoke inhalation. Police Capt. Joel Rae declined to provide the officer’s name, citing medical privacy laws. Rae said the officer is doing well.

Rabbit Ears Motel owner Greg Koehler said an insurance adjuster examined the damage Tuesday but didn’t provide an estimate. In addition to the damage of the bathroom in Room 106, Koehler said emergency responders broke a window in a neighboring room and broke a hole in a wall to reach the fire.

Koehler said he thinks the fire was electrical and was caused by a bathroom exhaust fan. He said the fan, as well as most at the motel, was less than three years old. Koehler said because the fans cost between $25 and $30, instead of trying to repair them when they start to make noise, they’re just replaced.

He said the manufacturer of the fan is involved in several lawsuits stemming from electrical fires.

Koehler said he hopes to have a damage estimate later this week. He said in addition to the damage, he hopes it covers his costs to find other accommodations Saturday night for guests who were staying in 15 of Rabbit Ears’ 33 rooms.

He said other guests went home, camping or to friends’ homes. Koehler said others staying in rooms not affected by the fire stayed.

Until he gets the go-ahead to fix the damage, Koehler said he’s unable to rent three rooms. And he wants to get them fixed as soon as possible.

“I don’t want to have this going on any longer than possible,” he said. “I want to get it fixed and get it behind me. No doubt, I want to know what caused it so we can prevent it from happening again.”

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