Fire officials said there were no working sprinklers in the south wing of The Red Jacket Resort in North Conway, where fire destroyed 75 rooms and displaced 155 guests on Saturday afternoon.

Steel and other debris from the burned out south wing of the main building were removed from the hotel in the early hours of Sunday morning.

"It was too dangerous to put anyone inside that building. It was too structurally compromised at that point, so we had to aggressively use heavy equipment  to prevent the fire from spreading to the rest of the building," North Conway Fire Chief Pat Preece said at a press briefing on Sunday afternoon.

Preese said the rest of the main building is "super sound", but with heavy water and smoke damage. It will likely need to be overhauled.

Red Jacket Managing Director Justin Grimes said the entire resort will closed for the foreseeable future. Guests with reservations are being contacted.

South wing of the Red Jacket main building after a fire 4/30/22
South wing of the Red Jacket main building after a fire 4/30/22 (Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid)
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No Working Sprinkler System

Preece said the south wing was built in the 1970s before sprinklers were required, and so they therefore were not present. Smoke detectors were working when Preece arrived at the fire.

"I saw the alarm transmission. It was activated. When I arrived on scene, the horn strobes were working. Shortly after we were on scene, the south wing horn strobes went out. The fire burned out a circuit or something, but they were working initially," Preese said.

The fire burned through a main transmission line connected to the hotel's south end, causing a circuit to short out. Power was knocked out to North Conway for a period of time after the fire was brought under control.

Two firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion and fatigue, according to Preese. Two guests were treated for a diabetic problem and shortness of breath. All were treated at Memorial Hospital as a precaution.

South wing of the Red Jacket main building after a fire 4/30/22
South wing of the Red Jacket main building after a fire 4/30/22
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Investigation Into a Cause of the Fire

State Fire Marshal Sean P. Toomey said it will be some time before cause of the fire is determined by investigations. All possibilities are on the table, including a rumored transformer fire. Because the south wing has been knocked down, there will be limited physical evidence to review.

"It will be a bit before we have any definitive information. Based on the loss, it's going to be based a lot on witnesses statements and information from people who were here at the hotel because of the extent of damage," Toomey said.

The hotel has provided a list of guests to the fire marshal's office.

Toomey asked anyone with information about the fire to call his office at 603-223-4289.

Grimes thanked the community for coming together with donations of clothing and other essentials for displaced guests. Some were evacuated wearing nothing more than bathing suits after being inside the Kahuna Laguna water park

"We are truly humbled by the spirit of giving in this community. Hotels and rental owners have come to the aid of our guests and our staff by providing them with a place to stay, a warm meal, clothing, and so many other essential items we take for granted," Grimes said.

South wing of the Red Jacket main building after a fire 4/30/22
South wing of the Red Jacket main building after a fire 4/30/22 (Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid)
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Taking Care of Employees, Guests

Grimes said the hotel's ownership is working out how to take care of employees who could face an extended period of time without work. He said management has made a commitment to its staff to "handle this the right way."

He also praised staff who got guests out of the buildings and arranged for buses to get them to other area resorts.

Preese said the hotel staff has done a tremendous job of taking care of guests who are stranded for the moment because they lost keys and their belongings to the fire.

"The Red Jacket is doing a fabulous job. They're made arrangements with tow companies. They've made arrangements with locksmiths. They're taken care of their guests as best they can and what resource they can pull they're pulling them to make sure these guests get back safely," Preese said.

In a tweet Sunday afternoon, Sen. Maggie Hassan thanked North Conway and all first responders at the fire. She wished the injured a speedy recovery.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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