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Flamingo up in flames

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By Mike Strand

The Salina Journal

Janie Frick has lived in a room on the east side of the Flamingo Motel for about 20 years. On Friday night, she watched from across the street as the motel, owned by her father, Ben Frick, burned to the ground. Firefighters were called to the motel at 500 E. Pacific at about 8:30 p.m., said fire marshal Roger Williams, and found the northwest side of the U-shaped motel "fully engulfed."

About a half-hour later, Williams said, "there was a minor explosion and collapse," on the west side that sent shards of glass flying across Pacific. By 10:30 p.m., the fire had spread across the south end of the building and was making its way back north through the east wing. "We've gone defensive, protecting the area and letting it burn itself out," Williams said.

Williams said this was a four-alarm fire, with all Salina Fire Department shifts being called in, and that Saline County fire departments had been called in to cover the city.

Daughter smelled smoke

Janie Frick said she thought she had smelled smoke a few hours earlier and had walked around the building.

On the west side, she noticed a window broken and the screen pried out; she bent the screen back into place as a temporary fix "to keep anybody from climbing in."

Later, she said, she smelled smoke again and went to look.

"That's when I heard a 'crackle, crackle' and saw there was a fire," she said. After she passed her keys to a firefighter, her van was pulled away from the building. Frick said she had four cats in her room and she knew that one had gotten out -- along with her dog. "The other three, I don't know," she said.

Not the first time

Owner Ben Frick also watched the fire burn, saying it was just the latest in a series of suspicious fires at the motel and nearby buildings he owned.

A fire earlier this month that destroyed much of the contents of a detached twocar garage at the former Flamingo Motel was being investigated as a suspicious fire, according to Salina Fire Department battalion chief Calvin Kelsey. The blaze, which was reported at about 12:30 a.m. Oct. 5, occurred across the street from another structure owned by Ben Frick that burned in mid-August, Kelsey said. There have been other recent fires at Frick-owned property in the area, prompting Frick to write a letter to the editor of the Journal recently offering a reward for information about how the fires are starting.

On Friday night, Frick increased the reward for information about the fires to $7,000.

In the early morning hours of July 4, there was another fire at the Flamingo. When crews arrived at that call, Kelsey said at the time, "there was pretty significant fire on the back of the motel in a couple of rooms."

The motel fire in July was brought under control after about 40 minutes, Kelsey said.

(c)2014 The Salina Journal

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