Officials investigating after fire starts in vacant hotel

Smoke was seen pouring out of a vacant hotel building in west Charlotte Friday afternoon as it went up in flames. 

Firefighters who were headed to training saw the blaze at the Airport Parkway Hotel on Wilkinson Blvd. just outside of Uptown.

More than 40 firefighters and investigators were on scene for hours, bringing in extra resource and the mass casualty bus from Medic to fight not only the fire, but also the heat. 

“I heard the three firetrucks, I smelled the smoke, I stay three houses down,” Sharon White, who lives nearby told FOX 46. 

Eyewitness video shows flames shoot out of the top floor of the vacant hotel in the Ashley Park neighborhood. It’s been vacant for about a year. 

“Buildings that we claim are vacant are not always vacant unfortunately you have some homeless that live in these buildings so when we run these that are on fire we continue to search and look for victims,” said Charlotte Fire Chief Reginald Johnson.

There was no one inside, according to officials, but firefighters combed the building just in case.

“This place is normally known for vagrants homeless people, basically drug addicts whatever, however,” White said.  

The owner says the hotel was just days away from demolition, with a wrecking crew set to start work on Monday. 

This isn’t the first time a building on this property has caught fire. In November of last year, Bullie's Sports Bar right in front of the hotel burned. That fire was intentionally set, according to the fire department. 

“This is an example of why charlotte should do better with the homelessness,” said White. ”They go on up there and they vanish into the middle of the night, they're seeking shelter and they're seeking help Charlotte.”

Federal, state and local agents are sifting through the debris to find out the cause of Friday’s fire at the hotel. 

“We have things like this that could be avoided by rebuilding this place as a place for these folks to live,” said White. 

Now that the fire has been extinguished, investigators are digging through the third floor, especially where the flames were first spotted, to see if they can figure out if there are signs of recent squatters in the hotel.