The state fire marshal's office has closed an Autauga County hotel, citing fire code violations found during a recent inspection. Fire Marshal Ed Paulk delivered an order to the Knight Inn, 1657 U.S. 31 North, on Thursday afternoon to cease operations immediately. The hotel is near the intersection of U.S. 31 and Interstate 65. A deputy fire marshal inspected the business Wednesday, and it was that inspection that brought about Thursday's closure, Paulk said.
"The hotel has numerous code violations and is a threat to public safety," Paulk said. "There are ingress and egress issues. If the buildings were to catch on fire, you couldn't get firetrucks in to fight the fire. It's just doesn't meet code and needs to be brought up to code before it can open again."
The owner of the property is Rahim A. Visram of Birmingham, county tax records show. He could not be reached for comment. A manager answering the phone at the business Thursday afternoon would not give her name and declined to comment on the order.
The owner has five days to appeal the closure to Autauga County Circuit Court, Paulk said. People staying at the hotel have until 5 p.m. Monday to evacuate, he said.
The inspection report states access roads for firetrucks were obstructed on the property and access points within the property did not meet the proper height to allow firefighting equipment to parts of the buildings. The inspection also found that the fire alarm systems had not been maintained and were not in operable condition, along with numerous electrical, housekeeping and fire protection system code violations.
The parking lot on the north side of the building is blocked by orange construction barrels and has a steel cable strung across the section to keep vehicles out. A large section of the rear parking lot has fallen in, said Chief Deputy Joe Sedinger of the Autauga County Sheriff's Office.
The Sheriff's Office has received "several complaints" and calls for service at the hotel in the past three months, Sedinger said.
"We've had several complaints about illegal activity going on up there, some drug use and some thefts," he said. "Some of our deputies answering calls up there were real concerned. ... They contacted me, and I contacted the state fire marshal and asked him to look into it."
The hotel was built about 1970 and first operated as a Ramada Inn.
"I was a very nice hotel in its day," Sedinger said. "But it hasn't been properly maintained for several years."
Written by Marty Roney