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Motel catches fire; northern wing lost

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Motel catches fire; northern wing lost

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Photos taken Sunday show the motel smoldering. The Fire Marshal said the motel’s northern wing was a 100 percent loss. CONTRIBUTED/ Eatonton Police Department

A Putnam County landmark, the old General Putnam Motel on Madison Road, caught fire Sunday.

No one was injured in the fire. Mickey Hunt, investigator for the Georgia State Fire Marshal’s Office, inspected the burned remains Monday morning and said the fire possibly was caused by an electrical shortage.

The call came in around 1:30 p.m. and when firefighters arrived, flames were burning through the roof over the office area. Eatonton Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Tommy McElhannon had charge of fighting the fire, along with 20 firefighters from EFD and Putnam Fire Rescue, EFD Chief Eugene Hubert said. “When it’s hot like it was Sunday, about 30 minutes is all a firefighter can take, so that’s why we need a lot of them there, so they can give each other relief,” he said.

Each department had four fire trucks there, and the firefighters fought the fire for three and a half hours. The northern wing of the motel is a 100 percent loss, according to the chief.

“I want to thank all the firefighters, the county EMS and also Tri-County EMC for cutting the power off so quickly for us,” Hubert said Monday. “Everybody pitched in. Putnam County Fire Chief (Shane) Hill was actually up on a ladder truck helping fight the fire.”

General Putnam Motel is renowned as the place where a scene of the 1992 comedy movie “My Cousin Vinny” was shot. Local law enforcement provided security during the filming, Hubert said.

The old motel was built in 1946 and an addition was built in 1956, according to the Putnam County Tax Assessor’s records. The owner, Virk Singh, said the property was insured, Hubert said. The motel reportedly was undergoing remodeling, but Putnam Planning and Zoning had posted a stop work notice on the door due to a lack of permits.

A 64-year-old woman who previously lived in an “apartment” in the motel told Eatonton Police Officer Harold “Buddy” Bowman that she no longer lives inside the motel, but her belongings were still there, according to a police report.