About 175 guests, many of them in their pajamas, filed out of the Best Western hotel on Lockwood Boulevard late Wednesday as fire damaged the kitchen inside the hotel's restaurant.
Charleston firefighters responded to the hotel at 11:39 p.m. and saw flames and dark smoke coming from the kitchen, according to Mark Ruppel, public information officer for the Fire Department. Firefighters knocked down the blaze within about 20 minutes, preventing flames from reaching the rest of the hotel. Because power and water were shut off to the building, the hotel was off limits for several hours, forcing guests in 115 rooms to find a new place to stay.
Among those were Joyce and Bob Chinsky of Long Island, who ended up sharing a room at the Marriott next door with another couple they were traveling with.
"They slept in one bed and we stayed in the other," Joyce Chinsky said.
Best Western General Manager Dewaine Smith said the Marriott opened a conference room for the guests to gather in as firefighters put the fire out. He said Best Western compensated the guests for Wednesday night's stay and offered to pay for the rooms of guests who went to other hotels.
Smith said the kitchen of the Amalfi's Restaurant and Pizzeria was significantly damaged, but a firewall helped prevent the flames from spreading. He said the cause appears to be electrical. Ruppel said the fire is still under investigation.
The smoke alarms woke Louise Pronk, who was staying the night at the Best Western while traveling with a group from Holland.
"We didn't see any fire. We just saw smoke," Pronk said. "Everyone was going out, so we thought we better go out too even in our pajamas."
Pronk said they were able to find another room at the Comfort Inn nearby without any difficulty.
The Chinskys said smoke reached all the way to the seventh floor where they were staying. They said there was a bit of confusion inside the conference room and that some people were attempting to stay the night there because they couldn't afford to pay for another hotel room.
They said that they aren't letting the incident affect their trip and that firefighters and police officers who responded were extremely kind.
"We were very impressed," Joyce Chinsky said.