Fire at Hotel in Chicago Suburb Kills 1


LOCKPORT, Ill. (AP) -- A fire tore through a suburban Chicago hotel early Tuesday, killing at least one person, and authorities searched for more possible victims.

The fire broke out at the three-story Towpath Inn just before 4 a.m., according to the Lockport Township Fire Protection District. Firefighters from several communities battled the blaze in the century-old brick building for hours before bringing it under control later in the morning.

The victim's body was found on the third floor, where the fire apparently started, Chief Rob Cronholm said. It was unclear whether the person was a resident at the hotel, he said.

Two other people were being treated for injuries not considered life-threatening, he said.

The cause of the blaze was unknown. An initial investigation, including a dog search, revealed no indication of arson, Cronholm said.

A registry showed that as many as 14 people were staying at the hotel, authorities said. All had been accounted for by the afternoon, Cronholm said, acknowledging that officials were not sure of the registry's accuracy.

Firefighters continued to search the building Tuesday afternoon, Cronholm said.

Ed Zamora said he was sleeping in the second-story room, where he had lived about a week, when he heard people banging on his door and yelling. He had to rush out without any possessions, and "when I got outside, the whole roof was engulfed in flames."

"I'm very lucky to be alive for the fact that I was asleep, sound asleep, until all the yelling started," he said. "My alarm clock was not going to go off for another two hours."

When firefighters arrived, smoke and flames were pouring from the building, and crews had to run hoses from outside the downtown area to get enough water to fight the blaze, Cronholm said.

"We didn't have enough water to fight the fire initially," Cronholm said. "Water mains downtown aren't quite what they should be for a water flow like this."

Lockport is about 25 miles southwest of Chicago. According to the city's Web site, its downtown is part of a historic district surrounding the Illinois and Michigan Canal. The canal was dug in the mid-19th century to link the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River.

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