Steele fire leaves some homelessBlack smoke poured down the hallway around 8 a.m. Sunday when Kenny Minnick opened the door to his room at the Lone Steer Motel Restaurant and Lodge.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
STEELE, N.D. — Black smoke poured down the hallway around 8 a.m. Sunday when Kenny Minnick opened the door to his room at the Lone Steer Motel Restaurant and Lodge.
“There was a lot of commotion for a Sunday, which was unusual,” said Minnick, who was living with his wife, Jennifer, and son, Alex, at the motel off of Interstate 94 for the past couple of months.
Close to 40 minutes after Kenny opened that door that whole building would be engulfed in flames.
With Jennifer at work at Walmart in Bismarck, Kenny went straight for his 5-year-old son.
After moving downstairs and placing Alex with people he could trust, Kenny went back in.
With a fire extinguisher in each hand he went door to door on the lower level with a co-owner of the motel, making sure people were out of their rooms. Estimates put the number of people staying at the Lone Steer between 25 and 40. The motel had 55 rooms available.
Kenny also helped firefighters with the hose and helped one woman escape down a ladder.
“There were people moving back in to make sure everybody was out,” he said.
At the same time Jennifer was on her way back to find out if her family was all right.
“When he (Kenny) got a hold of me I had a panic attack and got into my car and drove,” Jennifer said. “You could see the smoke for miles.”
Upon her arrival at the scene Jennifer spent 20 minutes in an ambulance recovering from the panic attack.
“I knew they were safe, then I was worried about my animals,” Jennifer said.
One family pet survived — Max the cat. The other two cats, three ferrets and two parakeets were lost in the fire.
Max was scorched from the fire and will have permanently swollen ears. He also had burns on all four of his paws.
After being discovered by a member of local law enforcement, Max was transported to a local veterinarian to treat his injuries.
The Minnick family lost most of the possessions they had since moving from Kokomo, Ind., a few months ago. They said they wanted to thank the Red Cross and community members for donations.
The family spent the night at a friend’s house in Steele.
Kenny said he doesn’t mind that he’s going to have to find a new place to live and acquire new possessions for his family.
“That’s trivial crap,” he said, standing in front of the smoldering ruins of the motel. “I’ve had stuff in the past and lost stuff in the past. I have my family and that’s all that matters.”
Authorities arrived on scene at about 8:45 a.m. Sunday.
“It was just smoke coming out pretty much everywhere and by the time we got our hoses laid it ventilated through the roof and it was pretty much gone,” said Stuart Thompson, chief of the Steele Volunteer Fire Department.
Close to 50 firefighters from Steele, Tappen and Dawson fought the fire with 10 total units on scene.
Steele Police Chief David Feland said the Sunday blaze was the first he’s seen of that magnitude.
“I’ve never seen a fire move that fast,” Feland said.
Officials said they were glad no one was injured in the fire.
Two officials from each the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives declined to comment Monday.
The cause wasn’t known but Kenny Minnick and Mohammad Akhtar, building co-owner, said they suspect foul play.
Local, state and federal officials all declined to comment on the cause citing that the investigation was ongoing.
This also isn’t the first time a fire has happened at the Lone Steer. Two years ago a small electrical fire started but was extinguished before any serious damage ocurred, Thompson said.
The Lone Steer, which was a motel, bar/restaurant and conference center, with a pool and RV campground, was also the only one of its kind in this small community of about 700.
“I think it was very important, it’s kind of the end of an era in Steele with the Lone Steer,” Feland said. “It’s been a landmark — from my understanding since the 1970s.”
Akhtar said he does plan to rebuild at the same location because of the Lone Steer’s popularity among local residents.
“A lot of history at this place — people love it,” Akhtar said.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org