Fire at Hotel Bentley in downtown Alexandria

A fire broke out at the Hotel Bentley in downtown Alexandria on May 5, 2023.
Published: May. 5, 2023 at 8:57 AM CDT|Updated: May. 5, 2023 at 7:30 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - A fire broke out at the Hotel Bentley in downtown Alexandria on Friday, May 5, around 8:46 a.m.

We spoke with people who were inside the Hotel Bentley when it caught fire.

Multiple units responded to the scene, including the Alexandria Fire Department and the State Fire Marshal’s Office. AFD dispatched four engine companies, two aerial companies, three medical units, two district chiefs, an investigative unit and a command staff. The fire was controlled within 18 minutes of the first unit arriving and was completely out by 10 a.m.

According to the City of Alexandria, three construction workers were transported to hospitals for treatment of injuries sustained in the fire. An AFD investigator also received minor injuries while responding to the fire and was treated and released at a local hospital.

According to Scott Laliberte, the CEO of the Hotel Bentley, the hotel was evacuated. Laliberte added that it was an exterior fire that was concentrated in the lower roof area. Here’s Laliberte’s official statement on the fire:

“There was a fire at Hotel Bentley. It was on a lower-level exterior roof elevation that was being replaced. All guests and HB team were evacuated. AFD did an exceptional job at responding and extinguishing the fire. One roof worker received burns and is being sent to the burn center. There is damage to the property, mostly exterior, but our Hotel Bentley has been through a lot over the years and this will be another notch to add to the rich history of the Hotel Bentley. Thank you to everyone in our community for reaching out to me and our team.”

While staff and guests were evacuated unharmed, one guest, Jeremiah Yutzy, expressed concerns over the fire exit procedures. As he was working to evacuate with his wife and infant son from the third floor, Yutzy said he struggled to find the right way out.

“There’s nothing that marks, ‘Hey the stairwell is over here.’ Or ‘This is the exit.’ So, we just picked a door and hoped it was the right one,” explained Yutzy.

Laliberte responded to those concerns, saying that staff checked and confirmed that Yutzy’s room did have the plaque required for fire exit protocol. However, he said he understood that it may be something that gets overlooked in an emergency situation.

Another update was posted on the Hotel Bentley Facebook page on Friday afternoon:

“The rooftop fire never breached the property. Two windows were shattered due to heat, which allowed smoke into the second level. The interior of Hotel Bentley has very little smoke damage and is isolated to a mezzanine level office. Guest rooms, event spaces and the Grand Lobby remain untouched with the exception of the registration desk. The Hotel Bentley systems performed in the manner intended. Evacuation was timely, fire suppression systems performed accordingly. ServePro is on the scene to extract water. Occupancy has been reissued and the property is back online with fire protection in place. Thank you to Alexandria Fire Department for your quick response and performance.”

“We’re actually in a really good place right now,” explained Laliberte. “The building has been restored back to suppression active, alarms active. We’ve got occupancy. Utility service has been restored. In fact, we’re going to continue in hosting a wedding this evening.”

In the videos that were taken downtown when the fire started, you can see dark-colored smoke coming from the building.

Video provided by Tom Spencer:

The Bentley Hotel caught fire on May 5

One witness, Bailey Burley, captured the following video inside the hotel when the fire first started:

Inside the Hotel Bentley during the fire courtesy Bailey Burley

”When we walked downstairs, the further we got down, it got a little bit thicker and thicker and then my mom was like, ‘Hold your breath. Hold your breath,’” explained Bailey. “So, we got downstairs holding our breath and we couldn’t, I couldn’t find the stairs to get to the first floor because it was so smokey. And then we heard the sprinklers, and it kind of set in like, ‘Oh this is legit. Like it’s actually on fire.’”

Bailey’s mom, Ann, did something most guests would not think to do in an emergency. As she saw water falling on display cases, she quickly worked to remove historical items away from harm.

”There was a lot of water coming through from the second floor to the first floor, and I noticed that it was all on the display case, the historical things from the Bentley from over the years,” said Ann. “I grabbed the chairs and scooted them out into the middle of the lobby and grabbed Mr. Bentley’s, I think that’s his portrait, off the wall and set it on a couch. So, I hope they can find it before it gets ruined.”

Laliberte credited Ann with rescuing those historical items and said he plans to give her a call and thank her for her efforts.

Altogether, no historical items were damaged by the fire or water, as the fire was primarily contained to the exterior of the building. Laliberte said the smoke-damaged walls will be restored appropriately.

Water that had flooded the lobby was cleared up by Servpro Friday afternoon, wrapping up before 6 p.m.

Shortly after 4:30 p.m., the Alexandria Fire Department was spotted returning to the Hotel Bentley. We are awaiting more details about why they needed to return:

For context, here’s a brief history of the Hotel Bentley. The Hotel Bentley is 115 years old. It was built by Joseph Bentley, who was a timber baron. It cost about $700,000 at the time. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in November 1979. The current owner is Mike Jenkins. Jenkins purchased the hotel in 2012 for $3.4 million. Previous owners of the hotel include Buddy Tudor and Bob Dean.

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