A 16-year-old girl has been arrested after setting a couch on fire at a hotel and causing guests to be evacuated early in the morning following a fight with her mother, police say.
Ocala Fire Rescue in Ocala, Florida — located some 80 miles northwest of Orlando — received a call Tuesday at approximately 3:24 a.m. to reports of a structure fire at the Hilton Ocala hotel located on 3600 SW 36th Ave.
“Units arrived at the nine-story hotel to find audible and visual alarms, an active sprinkler system, and Ocala Police Department members assisting guests in evacuating the premises,” Ocala Fire Rescue said in a statement on social media.
Firefighters encountered “moderate smoke” as they entered the lobby of the hotel and began to make their way down a first-floor hallway near the banquet rooms to try and find the source of the fire which was worsening as they approached, authorities said.
“Using a thermal imaging camera, crews located the seat of the fire,” Ocala Fire Rescue said. “In conjunction with the sprinkler system, crews used a water can to smother the flames, which consumed a couch and scorched an adjacent wall.”
The fire was extinguished entirely within seven minutes of arrival, officials said, but given the deliberate nature of the blaze, the Ocala Police Department treated the fire as arson.
Following a brief investigation, Ocala Police ended up arresting a 16-year-old girl who was visiting from Peoria, Illinois. Police said she allegedly started the fire after fighting with her mother, though authorities did not say what caused the fight and what could have led her to allegedly set a sofa on fire in the building because of it.
“The damage to the hotel is estimated to be a couple hundred thousand dollars,” Ocala Police said. “Thankfully, no one was injured … and hotel guests were able to return to their rooms the same morning.”
Authorities credited an effective evacuation plan carried out by hotel staff in the early hours of the morning for helping to keep the situation under control and the estimated 320 guests safe.
The teenage girl has been charged with arson and the investigation into the incident is ongoing.