A fast-acting manager who evacuated a Washington motel minutes before a massive explosion is being credited with saving dozens of lives, including some who were staying in rooms that were reduced to rubble. The blast Tuesday night critically injured a gas company worker and knocked back firefighters, but the guests were safely away before it tore apart the Motel 6 in Bremerton. Two people initially were unaccounted for, but the Bremerton fire chief says no bodies were found in the debris and that he's almost certain the missing guests were not caught in the explosion. More than 60 people were staying at the hotel, though it's unclear how many were in the building when it was evacuated.
The fire chief credits acting motel manager Tonya Hinds with quickly evacuating the building because she smelled and heard a gas leak. He also lauded the hotel's guests for heeding the fire alarm. "People have been there when you hear an alarm go off and you don't do anything. We see that a lot," he says. "The one time that you should have gotten out and you didn't, it might turn out bad." Hinds says a passer-by came to her office to say a gas line was leaking at the back of the three-story motel. Hinds—a former volunteer firefighter—says she went outside and saw that the leaking line was a big one "with a lot of gas." "I pulled the alarm and started corralling people away from the building," she says. "I wanted to make sure all my guests were out." (Read more explosion stories.)