OGALLALA, Nebr. (NTV) — A popular hotel in Keith County was completely destroyed Friday, after a fire started near the hotel pool around 3 a.m.
The Ogallala Fire Department says when crews got to the Comfort Inn, they were hopeful they would get the fire out quickly, but that changed as they struggled to contain the blaze and flames began to spread through the building.
It took more than nine hours for firefighters to completely put the fire out.
Ogallala Fire Department president Ken Knofepfel said the below freezing temperatures created an ice rink beneath their feet, giving first responders an extra hurdle to cross.
“Safety is a big factor. You got a lot of water on the ground, you have to move a lot slower, try not to lose your footing,” said Knofepfel.
The chief added as the water they were using to battle the fire began to freeze on the ground beneath them, they had to bring in salt to keep people from falling.
Knofepfel said the building is a complete loss.
Fire crews say everyone inside made it out of the hotel safely, due in part to the brave actions of management.
Comfort Inn owner Anil Chaudhari said his brother, who is a manager at the Comfort Inn, called him around 2:50 Friday morning, and said he saw smoke coming from the roof near the breakfast room and pool.
When Anil got there, they both began banging on doors to warn sleeping guests.
Just after the brothers finished getting more than 20 guests out, they said the smoke turned into fire.
"We knocked on the doors twice each, to make sure there was no one in the room. They were on running mode, trying to take out their stuff. We were just like, this is an emergency, there's a fire and smoke coming out so we have to go off of the property right away," said Chaudhari.
Anil also owns the Rodeway Inn about a block away, and offered all the guests a room there after the evacuation.