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The Edgewater Resort's Four-story Volcano Erupts with Fire Instead of Fog and Water; Duluth Hotel's WaterPark Guests Flee

By Janna Goerdt, Duluth News-Tribune, Minn.McClatchy-Tribune Business News 

March 30, 2007 - Ten-year-old Becky Engle was paddling in the water park at the Edgewater Resort and Hotel in Duluth Thursday night when she saw something funny — black smoke pouring from the top of the park’s centerpiece volcano.

Seconds later, Becky was running from the water park along with plenty of other guests because flames were shooting out of the top of the volcano.

“Just like a real one,” said Becky’s friend, Angela Beckman, 11.

Unlike a real volcano, the one at Edgewater Resort and Hotel, 2400 London Road, is equipped with lights and speakers. One of those electrical speakers caught fire about 7 p.m., resort General Manager Leanne Joynes said.

“We experienced a small technical difficulty,” Joynes said, though the Edgewater planned to reopen the water park at 8 a.m. today after the place airs out. Viewed through emergency doors that had been propped open, a smoky haze hung over the water park.

No one was hurt as hundreds of guests were evacuated, though many were left standing outside wearing only their swimsuits. Eric Markman, 8, of Sartell, Minn., still wore his swimming goggles as he, his brother Matthew and mother Kathy shivered their way across the parking lot toward the nearby Perkins Family Restaurant. All three were barefoot and wearing wet swim suits, though they were wrapped in blankets handed out by resort staff members.

The family had just been ready to leave the water park when Kathy Markman noticed “a manager running towards the volcano,” she said.

When her eyes followed, she saw flames shooting out of the top.

“I thought it was just the special effects,” Eric said. Perhaps other guests did, too, Kathy Markman said, because she saw plenty of people running toward the burning volcano.

When the fire alarms went off, though, people turned and ran for the exits.

Some, like Becky Engle, made it to their rooms to throw on some clothes. Others, like Elizabeth Bargfrede of St. Paul, got out as quickly as they could. Bargfrede sat in the Perkins waiting area trying to soothe her fussy 5-month-old daughter Aviana, who wore only a tiny watermelon print swimsuit.

The water park refugees had been directed to gather at Perkins or Blackwoods Restaurant, where the hotel offered people free meals while they waited for the hotel to reopen.

Duluth firefighters were on the scene for about an hour.

The $20 million remodeled Edgewater Resort and Hotel opened in January 2006 after 14 months of construction. The 30,000-square-foot water park became the centerpiece of the attraction and included 150,000 gallons of water running through two miles of pipe as well as a four-story lighted volcano that erupted with fog and water.

Hotel staff members treated each guest to in-room ice cream Thursday night, Joynes said. Most guests handled the interruption with aplomb, though some children were upset about the popular water park being closed, she said.

In April, a 3-year-old boy from Thunder Bay, Ontario, got his arm stuck at the top of one of the water slides. The slide had to be cut open with a hacksaw by the Fire Department, and the boy was not injured.

The Duluth Fire Department estimated Thursday night’s damage at $25,000.

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Copyright (c) 2007, Duluth News-Tribune, Minn.

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