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Officials: Money Dispute Led To Fire At South Nashville Motel

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Posted at 6:11 PM, Jul 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-30 17:13:02-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A dispute over money led to a fire at an abandoned motel in south Nashville Tuesday, according to investigators. 

Officials with the Nashville Fire Department said Wednesday that at the Harding Inn, just off Harding Place and Interstate 24, has been ruled as aggravated arson. 

The dispute apparently broke out between two people who were living at the abandoned motel. Fire officials said they are pursuing multiple leads in the case. 

Flames broke out at the old motel around 7:15 p.m. Heavy smoke could be seen for miles around.

The old motel was supposed to be vacant but firefighters said several people set up temporary homes and were inside at the time of the fire.

Witnesses reported seeing people jump from balcony-to-balcony for safety.

"I was watching people jumping from the third story to the second story and there was a real heavy set woman on the third story and a drunk man and they were screaming we are gonna [sic] die, we're gonna [sic] die," said Jonathan Crowell.

The fire department said they used their ladder truck to rescue others trapped inside. Two people were transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Investigators said the blaze started in five to six places at the same time and they are pursuing all leads.

Firefighter officials were at the hotel Monday after a medical call tipped them off to people living there. They said they were working on a fire safety plan.

"This is a building that doesn't have electricity so any sprinklers wouldn't be working. We were there yesterday to try to prevent what happened today," said Brian Haas with the Metro Fire Department.

Hass said it helped they were familiar with the building and where people lived.

The motel was padlocked and boarded up in 2010 for being a hub for prostitution and drug activity. It is believed to still be used by the homeless. 

Fire Chief Ricky White has ordered the property owners to provide around the clock security until the building is either demolished or deemed safe to be occupied.