The charred remains of the Kentucky Cardinal Inn — once considered one of Elizabethtown’s better motels — was all that remained after a Tuesday afternoon fire swept through the East Dixie Avenue structure, destroying everything in its path.
Deputy Fire Chief Everett Roberts said investigators were “pretty confident” the fire started behind the front office area in the two-level motel, which opened in 1955 and contained about 60 rooms.
Roberts said what caused the fire might never be known. He said the building is so unstable, now it isn’t safe for investigators to perform a more thorough investigation and the cause has be labeled “undetermined.”
Nobody was injured in the fire that left about 30 long-term residents without a home — many without any possession they might have had in their room. The American Red Cross has provided residents with motel vouchers for temporary housing.
“It’s sad to see people lose what little some of them may have had,” Roberts said.
He said the fire began on the first floor and then spread. By Wednesday, the second floor rooms were without a roof and many areas had gaping holes from the fire that was reported around 12:45 p.m. Tuesday.
Roberts dispelled social media speculation that the fire was triggered by a meth lab.
“There is nothing to give us any indication that it was anything but an accident,” he said. “There was nothing at all that gave us that indication.”
An open records request Wednesday to the Lincoln Trail Health Department revealed there have been three inspections this year on the motel, the last on March 4.
Six rooms were checked and all had air filters that were “unclean” at a Jan. 24 inspection. By the final inspection, all had been replaced or cleaned, according to documents. None of the inspections indicated any loose wiring or poor outlets based on rooms checked.
Most of the inspection issues dealt with bath tub leaks, a hole in the wall and a mattress being stored in a dumpster on motel property, according to the documents. The health department gave the Kentucky Cardinal Inn a rating of 78 in January and by March 4 it had improved to 94 out of 100.
Roberts said firefighters were going back about every hour Wednesday to make sure there were no ‘flare ups.’ The area was taped off as well.
Roberts said a fire department crew was on the scene Tuesday night and Wednesday morning “to extinguish hot spots.” He said the crew cleared at 9:23 a.m. Wednesday.
The city of Elizabethtown announced Wednesday it would issue a condemnation order to the motel’s owners. Owners have five days to comply, Elizabethtown Mayor Jeff Gregory said.
He said owners also could seek an extension to get the work completed, if needed.
Gregory said the order was scheduled for “safety reasons because the building obviously is unstable.”
“We will work with them anyway we can to come up with the best solution for everyone,” he said.