BARSTOW - Fire evacuated 16 residents of an East Main Street motel early Tuesday morning.

No one was hurt, but the blaze caused $100,000 in damages to four rooms at the Sands Motel on the 900 block of East Main Street said Sal Corrao, division chief of the Barstow Fire Protection District. He said the fire likely started at about 1:45 a.m. in the attic of the building.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but it did not look suspicious, he said.
"It was possibly faulty wiring, but we have not made an absolute determination," he said.

Four engines and 18 firefighters from the Barstow Fire Protection District and the Marine Corps Logistics Base, Barstow extinguished the fire in 30 minutes, Corrao said. He said residents warned other residents of the fire and probably saved lives.

Oscar McMurria, a resident of the motel, said he woke up in the middle of the night to the smell of smoke. After discovering the blaze, he ran outside to wake up his neighbors and called 911.

"I didn't know where it was coming from, but there was a lot of smoke," he said.

He said that Tuesday's blaze was the third motel fire in Barstow that he's gone through. He was living at the El Rancho Motel and the Brandt Motel, both of which have experienced fires in recent years.

Asim Bajwa, the manager of the Sands Motel, said that although only four of the motel's rooms were damaged, all residents had to be evacuated because water, gas and electricity had to be shut off so that fire crews could respond. He said that the motel will be rebuilt.

"We provide homes to a lot of people," he said. "This is their homes. We don't want to put people out of their homes," he said.

To assist the victims of the blaze at the Sands Motel, the American Red Cross dispatched a team of five volunteers to help relocate the affected residents, including two in wheelchairs, to another motel. The organization will pay for the victims' lodging for three days until they can move back to the motel, said Bill Pyle, disaster services chairman for the High Desert chapter of the Red Cross.

He said that his organization is used to responding to motel fires and set up temporary shelter for 30 people when fire struck the El Rancho Motel in July 2006.

"I cringe when I hear about a motel fire because a lot of people are affected," he said.

Contact the writer: (760) 256-4126 or jason_smith@link.freedom.com