Last Boyne Highlands fire update until investigation complete

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These pictures from the aftermath of the recent fire at Boyne Highlands were taken by Kristin St. Peter. The panoramic photo shows Vic McCarty shooting footage for a local news station.
“This was a traumatic event for many of our guests and staff members,” said resort President and General Manager Mike Chumbler, “We continue to place their well-being as our top priority. We have made contact with all of the registered guests staying in the hotel that night to make sure that they’re okay, and that their needs are being addressed.”

Updated Statement Regarding Fire at Boyne Highlands’ Main Lodge Hotel

As law enforcement and state fire investigators continue evaluating the fire at the Boyne Highlands Main Lodge hotel, resort personnel are continuing to gain understanding of the fire and its aftermath.

“This was a traumatic event for many of our guests and staff members,” said resort President and General Manager Mike Chumbler, “We continue to place their well-being as our top priority. We have made contact with all of the registered guests staying in the hotel that night to make sure that they’re okay, and that their needs are being addressed.”

Chumbler said that he’s aware of statements made via social media and directly to the resort raising questions about the events during the early stages of the emergency.

“There are things we know, and there are things we still don’t know,” he said. “Some things that seemed clear in the early stages are now in question. Our goal all along has been to provide the most accurate information we can. There are large aspects of this investigation that are entirely the province of law enforcement and the State Fire Marshal’s office, and we’re cooperating with them fully. Some of the questions raised may not have answers until their investigation is complete.”

About the hotel’s fire detection apparatus:

The hotel’s fire detection system was overhauled in 2006. The original system, installed when the hotel was built in the 1960s, relied upon wall-mounted alarm levers in the hallways, which required guests or staff members to pull a lever if there was suspicion of a fire. In addition to requiring someone to be present, the old system was vulnerable to false alarms.

The new system was installed to improve upon the industry standard of using standalone smoke detectors in each sleeping area, which only notify the occupants of that room. It incorporates microprocessor technology to provide early-stage smoke detection and reduce the occurrence of false alarms. Upon triggering, each detector is designed to initiate an in-room audible alarm and provide both audio and visual notice to a control panel in an area that’s constantly attended (in this case, the resort’s front desk).

These units are designed to communicate constantly with the panel, in part to prevent occupants from tampering with or disabling the detectors. The apparatus also includes a central backup power supply.

The system is designed to sound an audible alarm only in areas where smoke is detected. It does not, however, send a general alarm through the entire hotel or specific zones. Due to several guests stating that no audible alarms were heard, this is an area that remains under active investigation.

Once resort staff were aware of the fire, personnel responded to check on the identified location and began notifying guests of the need to evacuate. The resort’s standard protocol is to contact the resort’s safety and security team, begin calling guestroom phones if possible, and begin knocking on doors.  As time became critical, resort staff focused exclusively on door-to-door evacuation procedures until staff members had to exit the structure for their own safety and emergency services personnel had arrived on scene and took over sole responsibility for the evacuation.

Slightly more than a year ago, resort personnel and the Harbor Springs Area Fire Department conducted a practice drill in the facility, which included a review of the detection system.

Impact on operations:

The fire and firefighting efforts seriously damaged approximately 70 hotel rooms in the Lodge. Most of the Lodge’s common areas, however, are currently expected to re-open following cleanup. This includes the lobby, which handles check-ins for all resort lodging properties, the Slopeside Lounge and the Main Dining Room facilities.

The impacted area represents approximately 15 percent of the resort’s lodging capacity. Resort staff are currently contacting guests with future bookings in the hotel to discuss available lodging options at Boyne Highlands and its sister resort properties in the area.

The resort hopes to know more in the coming few days regarding whether the undamaged section of the Lodge’s rooms will be available for the Christmas to New Year’s holidays.

The fire had no impact on the resort’s skiing facilities. Lifts, trails and related services such as the snowsports school were unaffected, and mountain operations activities including snowmaking have resumed.  The golf, as well as the meeting and event spaces, were also unaffected.

The resort re-opens at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, December 16. The resort shut down on Sunday, December 11, to begin recovery from the fire; it was previously scheduled to remain closed Monday through Thursday due to normal early season operating schedules.

The resort plans to re-open, as scheduled, for daily operations for the remainder of the season beginning Friday morning.

As the investigations by the Emmet County Sheriff and the Michigan State Fire Marshal’s office are ongoing for the foreseeable future, at this time, the resort is deferring to these agencies and does not plan to release additional updates until these agencies announce their findings.