Command post establish to find source of deadly hotel fire

HOOVER, AL (WBRC) - Dozens of federal agents from around the country are joining a task force set up to investigate the blaze.

Fire experts from several agencies including ATF's national response team swarmed the scene Monday. They'll return first thing Tuesday morning to figure out what caused a fire that one local firefighter called "one of the worst in this city's history."

"We owe a very thorough investigation to the families, to the hotel, and to the residents of this community," said Hoover Police's Capt. Jim Coker. "This has touched everybody very, very deeply. I know it has touched Hoover Public Safety very, very deeply. So we owe answers to everybody we can."

"With something like this with such a great tragedy, you can't have too many sets of eyes on it, and it is truly a joint effort," said David Hyche, special agent in charge of the Birmingham ATF Field Office. "And everything is shared in the morning, and everything is shared in the evening."

"There could be just the smallest amount of evidence that could lead us to find the cause of this fire or at least headed in the right direction to see what might have caused the blaze," said Hoover Fire Department spokesperson Rusty Lowe.

Alondan Turner and Catherine Muse, both 18-year olds from Cordova, were trapped inside the room with 2 friends from Mississippi when the fire ignited. Firefighters said they got a call from inside that room and knew where help was needed.

"We knew what room we needed to get to, and it was an all-out effort," Lowe said. "But the sheer volume of fire prevented us from getting there, and we were providing as much water as we could."

The motel was built in 1964 and didn't have firewalls or a sprinkler system.

Investigators say they feel fortunate the hotel only had 4 or 5 rooms occupied in this section that burned so badly or else the number of deaths could have been higher.

Now, the focus is on finding a cause.

"Four people died, and everybody is pulling in the same direction just as hard as they can pull," Hyche said.

Investigators say they've gotten dozens of tips but are asking for more. If you saw anything Saturday night, even if you drove by, or have any information that you think could help the investigation, please call the tip line at (205) 985-9796 or 1-888-ATF-FIRE.