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Posted on Sun, Mar 11, 2012 : 8:54 a.m.

Weber's Inn evacuated after fire starts in storage room

By Paula Gardner

About 200 people — including a bridal party — were evacuated shortly before midnight Saturday as smoke spread from a fire in a storage room at Weber's Inn in Ann Arbor.


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The Ann Arbor Fire Department responded to the call at 3050 Jackson Road with Ypsilanti and Pittsfield departments at about 11:30 p.m., said AAFD Battalion Chief Randy Menard.

"There was heavy smoke found in the basement area coming into the upper level," Menard said. "... We had to evacuate the entire complex."

The fire started in a lower level storage room and it was contained to that area, Menard said.

However, smoke spread throughout much of the facility.

"We didn’t hear much," said Ralph Hale, an Ann Arbor resident who was on an indoor patio with friends who had rented a poolside room. "We had heard that the fire alarms were going off, although we didn’t hear them initially.

"They evacuated the pool, people were meandering around, and the hotel staff were going around telling people to evacuate.”

The kitchen had to be shut down, but the wedding party was able to get back into its banquet room and continue celebrating after about an hour, Menard said.

However, officials had been preparing to relocate guests to other facilities in case that step was necessary, said Ann Arbor Police Sgt. Mike Sherba.

Two guests who left Weber's after the evacuation order told that the hotel seemed full. In addition to the wedding party, the pool area was busy with birthday parties for teenagers, a water aerobics group and revelers who had gathered to watch college basketball games on television.

Shannon Soenen was just drifting to sleep after attending a birthday party with her two young daughters when a friend from the party started banging on the poolside door to alert her. Soenen, a school teacher who lives in Canton, said she emerged in the hallway to a scene of mass confusion, with hotel guests unsure of what was happening or which way to go to find an exit.

No fire alarms noises were audible, she said, and hotel staff seemed unaware of what to do.

“There was no direction, there was no staff helping us out… there were just firefighters rushing past us,” Soenen said.

After driving her daughters home to Canton overnight, Soenen said she was told she could return Sunday to retrieve her belongings from her room but needed to be there by checkout time at 11 a.m. Hotel staffers told displaced guests they would receive a $100 gift card to use in the hotel or restaurant but would be unable to speak with a manager until Monday, she said.

Weber's staff on Sunday said a manager was not available to comment.

Hale said the alarm bells were not initially audible from the pool area of the hotel.

"It just seemed a little strange that the whole hotel wasn't buzzing with alarms," he said.

There were no injuries, Menard said, and the cause of the fire is still under investigation. A damage estimate was not available Sunday morning.

Weber's, established 75 years ago as a restaurant that grew into a hotel and banquet facility, recently completed a $4 million renovation.

Freelance writer Sven Gustafson contributed to this story.


Sarah Kolle

Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 6:25 p.m.

I am the bride from the bridal party! I will say that the situation was not ideal. We were having an amazing reception when asked to evacuate. I am happy that no one was hurt in anyway. Once allowed back in, Webers allowed us to continue to celebrate until 1:30am. They also brought out complimentary snacks for us to enjoy. This is all great but do to the evacuation, 3/4 of our guests had left. Our DJ, Diana from Silversounds was so amazing! Without even a thought she turned her music back on and kept the party going until around 1:45am. Thank you Diana!! As of now we are enjoying our honeymoon in southern California. We have yet to receive word from webers, and the only compensation we have received as of now is the same 100 dollar gift certificate that every other person who stayed received.


Sat, Apr 21, 2012 : 2:24 a.m.

Whine, Whine, Whine!! You should Be thankful! that no one was seriously hurt or burned. You got extra snacks at no charge! Your party went on until "around 1:45 am". You got $100 gift certificate! You are safe and enjoying your honeymoon! What nnore do you expect??? You sound as if you feel the world owes you!!! Get over it and be grateful you are safe and able to enjoy your honeymoon....instead of being in a burn unit in the hospital!!


Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 7:01 p.m.

I also was there and it was cold outside in our strapless gowns no coats, I felt very sorry for the people that were in the pool and had to go outside wet! Weber's staff was very nice and did as Sarah said, try and make things better and let us continue with what very few people that were left to enjoy the rest of the night, but feel that they should have done more. I stayed also in the hotel for the night and yes was given a voucher but still isn't nearly as much as it will cost us to return for another night.


Mon, Mar 12, 2012 : 8:13 p.m.

What a deal! All that extra entertainment at no charge!


Mon, Mar 12, 2012 : 3:49 p.m.

I've always been told that what ever happens on your wedding day, can be an omen to how the rest of your marriage will turn out. Not sure if that holds true or not, but what an exciting time for the wedding couple. I'm not sure if I want to be outside in my bathing suit though.


Mon, Mar 12, 2012 : 2:22 a.m.

Hmm...while these situations are difficult to prepare for, it does sound like they need to do some disaster preparedness training with their employees.


Mon, Mar 12, 2012 : 1:25 p.m.

As a good idea to have a plan of action even in our own homes.