Nearly 50 People Displaced by Lodi Hotel Fire

LODI -- The American Red Cross reports 47 people have been displaced following a fire at a Lodi hotel.

A group of people in an alley behind the Golden Era Hotel Wednesday night waited on direction from the Red Cross.

Valerie Carl and her two dogs have been living at the Golden Era for five months. Carl says she's used to the alarm going off but this time it was different.

"We always have false alarms, so the dogs always alarm me," Carl said. "This time it was serious. The manager was making sure we got out."

It took the Lodi Fire Department about 45 minutes to get the flames under control when they got there around 6 p.m., according to Lodi Fire Battalion Chief Ron Penix. The department says there was thick smoke coming from the basement area. Firefighters had to break through the floor to get to the fire.

"It was nice and quiet and then we smelled smoke. So our maintenance man pulled the ceiling tiles out to make sure it wasn't an electrical fire," said the on-site manager, Patricia O'Driscoll. "I ran out back, turned off the main breaker. Our fire alarms had gone off when I was doing that then the fire department showed up."

In the lobby of the church, 74-year-old Juanita Smith and her husband Harvey said they were relaxing and trying to get to sleep for the night when the fire broke out at the hotel. When the smoke began filling the building, Smith says his first thought was their family.

"I called my grandson so he can tell my daughter, his mother, that we're OK," Harvey Smith said.

After about two hours, Penix says the fire department secured the building enough to let people back in to get some belongings.

The hotel is a type of transitional home. Thankfully, no one was injured, but now those displaced are wondering what's next.

The Red Cross has set up a shelter for the 30 families and their pets at the First Baptist Church on North Mills Avenue.

Red Cross Disaster Supervisor Frank Pasillas believes, although some families are devastated, giving them food, water and shelter was one way they can comfort families.

"It's really disheartening to see people and their families, their kids, pets not to have a nice, good, warm place to go at night," Pasillas said.

The Red Cross says they will have the shelter in place for three days.

Every one of the people FOX40 spoke with said they are hopeful they can return soon. They are thankful for the help from the Red Cross and First Baptist. Once the three days are up, the Smiths will have to figure out what to do next.

"If it's not ready we will have to just stay wherever," Juanita Smith said.

Back in February, the Star Hotel right next door went up in flames, according to Penix. That hotel is still uninhabitable and some of the residents from there came over to the Golden Era Hotel.

The fire department says how the fire started is under investigation and they don't know how long it'll be before people can come back in.

Stay with FOX40 News and FOX40.com for more updates.