The motel was closed for the winter off-season and was empty at the time. With the cause of fire still undetermined, arson has not been ruled out.
Cherokee Public Safety received a call around 8 p.m. Feb. 27 from neighbors who saw smoke coming from the back of the motel. When Cherokee Fire & Rescue arrived, the motel office and upstairs living quarters were fully engulfed, according to Chief Fireman Curtis Arneach. The Bryson City Fire Department, Qualla Fire Department and Cullowhee Fire Department provided backup.
Although the fire was contained and several rooms were saved from the flames, all 42 rooms suffered some form of smoke damage, according to Battalion Chief Steve Smith.
The fire spread to a nearby wooded area, forcing the evacuation of a home as a precaution, but it was quickly put out by the Bureau of Indian Affairs forestry crew and the house was not harmed.