11 Injured in California Residential Hotel Fire

Authorities are searching for the cause of a fire that swept through an old residential hotel in Watsonville , Calif., injuring 11 men, five of them critically.

The blaze broke out Monday evening at the 85-year-old Stag Hotel, where about 50 men with low income lived, said Rosa Meyer, a spokeswoman for the Watsonville Fire Department. Crews extinguished the blaze in about 10 minutes, but the fire displaced the building’s residents, who are being offered shelter by the American Red Cross, officials said.

Eleven people were sent to hospitals to be treated for smoke inhalation, leg fractures and respiratory burns, Meyers said. Three were flown to trauma centers outside Santa Cruz County. Officials initially believed 17 people were sent to hospitals.

At least one man was injured after he jumped out a second-floor window, officials said.

Victor Mendoza, a janitor at the store next door, rushed to the hotel with ladders to help second-story residents escape, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported.

“I was walking down the hall, and suddenly I heard, ‘Fire, fire, bring ladders,”‘ Mendoza said. “There were big flames coming out the front window. I just did what I could.”

Fire officials said the two-story building was built in 1927 and had no sprinklers. Investigators are trying to determine how much damage the blaze caused.

“My initial thought was hopefully everybody got out safely,” hotel owner Ernest Araiza told the Sentinel. “Buildings can be fixed or repaired. Lives are precious.”