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Published August 13, 2012, 09:11 AM

Feds to probe motel fire in North Dakota town of Steele

STEELE, N.D. (AP) — State and federal investigators are being called in to determine the cause of a weekend fire that destroyed a popular motel in the North Dakota town of Steele.

STEELE, N.D. (AP) — State and federal investigators are being called in to determine the cause of a weekend fire that destroyed a popular motel in the North Dakota town of Steele.

The Lone Steer Motel in the town just off Interstate 94 about 40 miles east of Bismarck burned to the ground Sunday morning. All of the two dozen people in the building got out safely, though some had to exit second-floor windows, make a short drop to another roof and then jump into the bed of a pickup truck parked next to the motel, The Forum newspaper reported. Most of the people staying there are with a construction crew working in the area.

"Everybody's accounted for," Police Chief David Feland said.

Arson has not been ruled out, he said. Two investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are being called in, and the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation and state fire marshal also have been notified.

Steele firefighter Rob Dewitz told North Dakota Public Radio that the call came in about 8:45 a.m. and there was little that firefighters could do.

"You could see smoke coming out from the soffit, most of the way around the building. That tells us it's already in the attic, and it's pretty involved," he said.

Red Cross officials helped the residents find other places to stay.

The longtime motel also housed a restaurant, casino and bar, and was a popular gathering spot for area residents.

"It ends an era in Steele," Feland said of the motel's destruction.

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