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17 Injured in California Residential Hotel Fire


WATSONVILLE, Calif. (SantaCruzPatch) - Seventeen people were injured in a major fire at the Stag Hotel on 117 W. Beach Street,  at 7 p.m. Monday.

Injuries included severe fractures, smoke inhalation, and respiratory burns, according to Watsonville Fire Department Spokesperson Rosa Meyer.

The fire spread throughout the two-story building. No cause has been named.

Three victims of the fire were airlifted out of the area, one for a broken leg from jumping out a window, and the other two for major burns.

"The first guy got burned pretty bad. They took him away first because his hide was falling off. His shirt was smoking," said Russell Leckbee, a resident in room 37 of the hotel.

Leckbee had been dragged out of a window by two police officers.

By 6:30 p.m. there were still around 10 patients who were waiting to be taken to the hospital.

One man, Jesse Carranco, jumped out of a second story window and landed on his lower back.

"There was too much smoke in there, I couldn't see anything," said Carranco, who said he was in great pain as he waited quietly with a paramedic at his side.

Pajaro Valley and Watsonville Fire Fighters gave patients one-on-one treatment, and pure oxygen as they waited for the next wave of ambulances to arrive.

"There is a myriad of different injuries," said Scott Agnelli, Captain of the Pajaro Valley Fire Department. "We classify this as a mass-casualty incident, because there are so many injuries. We investigate who has the most critical, most serious injuries, and they get transported first, and eventually we get everyone."

The patients waiting to be transported to the hospital had blackened faces from the smoke and most of them were receiving oxygen, which Agnelli explained "is providing 100 percent oxygen to the lungs instead of whatever else in the air that he [they] would be breathing."

The Stag Hotel is a multiple-use facility used for transitional housing—people who are undergoing substance abuse treatment or who are reentering society after incarceration, according to Watonville Police Chief Manny Solano.

There are about 50 rooms in the hotel.

"I took off to Subway, and when I returned five to 10 minutes later the building was in flames," said manager Russell Rickman.

About 10 Police officers from Watsonville Police Department joined the two fire departments.

"I like how everyone just came together," said Sgt. Angel Calderon, a first responder to the scene. "Even the residents were trying to help out, trying to pull people out."

Firefighters will analyze the blaze today.

"Basically we will take all of the contents that were in the room and put them back in the room where it was originally, and then we look at the burn patterns and it basically gives us a better idea of the origin of where the fire began. It's like a puzzle," said Captain Pablo Barreto of the Watsonville Fire Department.

Responders included CAL Fire units, North County, Pajaro Dunes, Pajaro Valley, Aptos Fire, Central Fire, Felton Fire, and Watsonville Fire Departments, as well as Watsonville and Salinas Police Departments and the Monterey County Sheriff's Department, according to Captain Pablo Barreto of Watsonville Fire Department.

--Additional reporting by Juan Reyes.


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