photo by T. Klein
Firefighters were still on the scene for more than six hours on Sunday morning to ensure the fire was out.
COOK – A fire swept through the Vermilion Motel early Sunday, causing extensive damage to the building and temporarily displacing guests at the motel.
Meanwhile, cleanup crews were already at work at the motel this week with plans to open a half-dozen rooms as soon as the end of the week. The Country Store convenience store remains open.
The motel fire is the second major fire to affect Cook this summer, In June, the Brown Building fire in downtown Cook resulted in the loss of two businesses — the Dollar Barn and Gilley’s Naturals — and eight apartments.
Fire departments from Cook, Orr, Tower, Evergreen and Pike Sandy joined forces to fight Sunday’s fire, which started at about 3:09 a.m. The Cook Ambulance Service was also on the scene.
Despite a full motel, quick thinking by one of the motel guests helped to avoid any injuries. She awoke to the smell of smoke and alerted other motel occupants, knocking on their doors to rouse them so they could safety exit the building, according to motel manager Joan (Musech) Hahn.
Damage was estimated to be in excess of $500,000. Eleven of the motel’s 17 rooms were damaged in the blaze, but six rooms and the adjacent County Store convenience store were relatively unscathed by the fire.
Firefighters were able to save those sections by enlisting a local contractor to tear down a portion of Vermilion Motel and prevent the spread of the fire. KGM Contractors Inc. of Aurora, which had equipment stationed near Cook for work on the Highway 53 expansion, handled the job.
During the fire, flammable products and ammunition were pulled from the shelves of the Country Store and gas pumps were shut off, according to manager Hahn.
Both the Country Store and Vermilion Motel are owned by Tom Musech, and the operation has been in the Musech family for more than 40 years. The motel was the only motel in Cook and a popular stay for those visiting the area. Doctors and specialists at the Cook Hospital also often stayed at the Vermilion Motel.
Musech plans to rebuild the damaged portions of the motel as soon as possible and met with insurers on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the American Red Cross is providing assistance to the displaced motel occupants, who were all from out of the area or out of the state.