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Search for cause of Red Jacket resort fire continues; N.H. fire marshal urges use of automatic sprinklers

A scene of the aftermath of the Red Jacket resort fire on Monday.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The search for the cause of the fire that destroyed a wing of the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort in North Conway remains ongoing and New Hampshire State Fire Marshal Sean P. Toomey is urging resort owners to consider installing automatic sprinklers even when not required by building codes.

In a statement on Tuesday, Toomey said the on-scene investigation at the resort is over, and now the inquiry is focusing on interviewing guests and employees who were on scene this weekend. The wind-whipped fire on Saturday forced some guests to lower themselves down from the third to second floor balconies to escape the powerful flames.


“Investigative work is projected to continue over the coming weeks, including gathering information specific to the timeline and sequence of operations of the fire alarm system components,’' Toomey said in a statement.

All of the guests safely evacuated and no firefighters were seriously injured battling the multiple alarm blaze that broke out shortly before 3 p.m. Saturday in the south wing of the Mount Washington Valley resort, ultimately destroying 75 rooms. Company officials have closed the entire resort in the aftermath of the fire, but are promising to reopen at some point, the Globe has reported.

In his statement, Toomey said investigators have concluded that guest rooms were equipped with hardwired smoke alarms with battery back-up along with a heat detector. The smoke alarms were designed to sound only in the individual room when a fire concern took place and the heat detector would trigger the fire alarm system, he said.

The main hallways of the hotel had fire alarm system smoke detectors and alarm notification devices that included horns and strobe lights to alert people to an emergency properly installed, according to Toomey.

However, the south wing did not have an automatic water sprinkler system. Nor was it required to have one installed under New Hampshire building code or state law, he wrote.


“Under the current statute, existing hotel occupancies that are not considered a high-rise are not required to have an automatic sprinkler system,’' Toomey wrote. “Automatic sprinkler systems in new hotels became a fire code requirement in 1991 for buildings that are not high-rises.”

He added: “The Office of the State Fire Marshal would advocate for owners to consider automatic sprinkler systems as part of capital projects.”

A damage estimate was not available Tuesday.

John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.