Arsonist causes $30,000 damage to Gastonia hotel, investigators say

GASTONIA, N.C. — A fire Sunday evening at a Gastonia hotel was set by an arsonist and caused roughly $30,000 in damage, emergency officials said.

Firefighters were called around 6 p.m. to the Budget Inn on West Franklin Boulevard and reported flames and smoke coming from the two-story hotel.

As people were being evacuated, firefighters entered the building and encountered heavy fire in one of the rooms, according to officials.

The fire took about 15 minutes to get under control and nobody was hurt.

The room was being rented, but the person living there was not in the room when the fire started, officials said.

Police and fire investigators are asking more questions about what happened and why.

The Gastonia Fire Investigation Task Force ruled that the fire was intentionally set.

Mark Childers was one of the first to see the fire, and he warned the manager and then went door to door warning people, some with children.

"The bed was on fire just a little bit, and by the time I turned back around, it was already to the ceiling,” Childers said. "Possessions are nothing. Lives count."

Some witnesses said they heard an explosion

The hotel owner called 911.

"Please come. It's too much fire. Please,” the owner said as the dispatcher tried to give him instructions. "Come out! Come out! Everyone, come out!"

The Budget Inn is an extended-stay motel where people often stay for weeks.

"Whoever did it needs to be captured,” Mark Lineberger said.

"Terrible. There is innocent people here, children. I'm just glad that nobody got hurt,” Angie Lineberger said.

Anyone with information is asked to call Gaston County Crime Stoppers at 704-861-8000.

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