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Residential hotel rebuilds after 2012 blaze

Posted: Friday, Mar 22nd, 2013

New framing meets existing framing inside the Stag Hotel in Watsonville as part of rebuilding the two-story building following a 2012 fire. (Photos by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

WATSONVILLE — Repairs are well under way at the Stag Hotel on West Beach Street where an April 30 fire charred the residential downtown building.

A crew of eight workers from Derek Fischer Construction has been working, sometimes seven days a week, to knock the project out following a length demolition of burned materials. On Thursday they were busy with replacing framing and flooring. The overall job calls for some new framing and floors, new windows and wall coverings, a first ever sprinkler system, insulation, new plumbing, new carpets an fixtures.

“These guys know what they’re doing,” said Russ Rickman, who has managed the building since 1990. “These guys are really on the hustle. It’s pretty exciting to see the building taking shape.”

Contractor Tom Fischer said it is fortunate that much of the original redwood framing can still be used.

“This building was very well built,” he said. “So, luckily, we are able to build on to some of the existing framing. It’s really good redwood.”

Eight people continue to live at the Stag Hotel in a separate building that wasn’t fazed by the fire.

Of the 17 people injured, Roy Robert Hughes, 50, died a week after the two-alarm fire, Watsonville Police Sgt. Saul Gonzalez said.

Once investigators picked through the rubble they concluded the fire was started by something other than electrical failure or natural causes, like an accelerant.

Hughes was a person of interest in the investigation along with another male resident who is still under investigation. If it’s determined to be arson, the case will become a murder investigation.

“The motive is still unknown,” Gonzalez said.

The fire broke out in the front lobby of the main building of the two-story hotel. The flames reportedly charged up the stairs and down the hallways on the first and second floor extremely quickly. Many of the residents, caught off guard, were forced to leap out their windows and black smoke and intense heat filled their rooms.

“I hope we can get some our former tenants back in here,” Rickman said. “These are all low income people and we’d be happy to get them a place to live. It will look really good when it’s done.”

The hotel most likely gained its name from a painting of a male deer that was once displayed in the lobby, Rickman said.

“A bunch of old timers have told me it was once named the Ritz Hotel, but I can’t say that as a fact,” he said.

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