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After fire, Iowa House Hotel may not open for Family Weekend

BY MARLEEN LINARES | NOVEMBER 06, 2009 7:20 AM

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If the Iowa House Hotel in the IMU remains closed today because of an early Thursday morning electrical fire, UI officials will likely have to scramble to find accommodations for the dozens of families planning to stay there this Family Weekend.

Though local hotels, including some in Coralville, were able to find open rooms for displaced guests on Thursday after they were forced out of their rooms, employees at several area hotels said they are booked for the weekend and have been for several months.

Iowa House officials are working feverishly to reopen the facility and avoid disrupting operations for the hotel, which is fully booked for the weekend filled with family activities and a home football game, said UI spokesman Tom Moore.

“The goal is to open or at least partially open the hotel by [Friday],” Moore said.

Hotel staff evacuated 33 of the rooms after the fire broke out in a fourth-floor utility room around 2:30 a.m. Thursday, and guests went to their cars or the nearby Danforth Chapel to keep warm.

The UI found accommodations for some at the Sheraton, 210 S. Dubuque St. But the downtown hotel is also booked for the weekend, a Sheraton employee said.

On Thursday evening, the Iowa House Hotel was closed for clean up and repair. Yellow caution tape kept visitors off the hotel lobby’s carpet and furniture as powerful blue fans blasted away at wet flooring and men in protective white suits carried furniture down stairs.

The fire was in a mechanical case — a narrow shaft where cables run through numerous floors of the building. Moore said guests heard a “big noise” before the alarm went off. No one was hurt in the fire.

The case is still under investigation, officials said, and no exact cause has been determined.
However, officials do not think it was intentional.

“There is no suspected foul play,” said Charles Green, the assistant vice president for the UI police.

Fire damage was primarily confined to the mechanical case, as well as water damage to the hotel lobby.

The rest of the IMU remained open Thursday, and officials said all weekend activities will go on as planned.

Moore said the hotel staff will keep those scheduled to have rooms this weekend updated on the building’s status.

Fire Battalion Chief Ken Brown said the decision to reopen the Iowa House is up to hotel officials.

“Everyone wants to open as quickly afterward as possible, and we are completely in favor of that,” he said. It is just a matter of cleaning up and making sure the fire-detection system is in working order, he said.

DI reporter Lauren Mills contributed to this article.


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