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Fire at Days Inn Bahia Cabana Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
 May Have Been Deliberately Set

By Macollvie Jean-Fran?ois, South Florida Sun-SentinelMcClatchy-Tribune Business News

Jan. 31, 2007 - FORT LAUDERDALE -- A fire that caused $30,000 in damage to a popular waterfront hotel and restaurant Tuesday may have been deliberately set, a Fire-Rescue spokesman said.

At about 1:30 a.m., bar patrons saw the flames on the facade of the Days Inn Bahia Cabana Beach Resort at 3001 Harbor Drive, said night employee Mark Michalak. They quickly grabbed extinguishers and sprayed the flames while Michalak dialed 911, he said.

Firefighters from a station on State Road A1A next to the hotel arrived four minutes later and spent about 20 minutes knocking down the blaze racing up the three-story building.

"Luckily, it was here, where everybody could see it," said Michalak. "They [patrons] are very loyal to this place."

No one was injured or evacuated from the four-building, 70-room hotel, Michalak said. A conference room in the front was damaged and a computer in the area is "toast," he said. One guest whose room was damaged was relocated, said Assistant Chief Stephen McInerny.

Investigators say the fire is suspicious because they did not find its source, McInerny said. They know it started on a first-floor balcony. The fire raced up two other floors, damaging the building's electrical wiring and breaking a guest-room window, he said.

"It could've been a lot worse," said Buff Rhinehart, the hotel's maintenance supervisor. The hotel will be packed with football fans and visitors for the Super Bowl this weekend, he said.

Long-time patron Dick Cavanaugh, a boat captain, saw the blackened brick wall and charred wood when he walked in for breakfast and said he thought, "Oops."

"It's a survivor, this place," said Cavanaugh, a patron since it opened more than 30 years ago. "This place has survived hurricanes and everything else."

Macollvie Jean-François may be reached at mjfrancois@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4694.

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Copyright (c) 2007, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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