Quick Brief, 3 August 2022: Arsonist had 30 minutes to start and feed damaging motel fire, all while on CCTV

03 August, 2022 Hotel Attacks

(Muir Analytics’ Quick Brief is broadly based on the Pentagon EXSUM briefing method. The aim is to quickly explain an evolving hotel threat issue in about 15 lines in executive summary format. Muir has added a quick analysis of the issue that can help hotels mitigate certain risks.)

Chain of events:

  1. Sometime near 4:00 am on Saturday, 30 July, Michael Devon Dunham committed arson against the Royal Inn in Fayetteville, NC, reports WRAL (see the video embedded in the article as well.)
  2. The Royal Inn is a two-star motel located at 2640 Gillespie St, Fayetteville, NC 28306. Current research indicates it is an independently branded motel.
  3. The hotel’s CCTV showed Dunham going in and out of his room for 30 minutes – room 112 on the ground floor – as it began to burn. He made no effort to put out the fire, he did not alert other guests to the danger, and he did not call 911.
  4. Once the fire was fully burning, he fled the scene.
  5. The fire then spread to the hotel’s second floor and threatened to engulf the entire building.
  6. Unknown persons called 911, and at 4:35 am, Cumberland County deputies responded to the fire, and Pearce’s Mill Fire Department followed immediately thereafter. Eight other fire departments sent assets to help, reports Myfox8.
  7. Fire fighters extinguished the fire before it spread to the rest of the motel.
  8. News video says the hotel was evacuated as first responders arrived; 40-50 guests, says Myfox8.
  9. No injuries were reported.
  10. From CCTV footage, police later identified the culprit and arrested him on two charges: First-degree arson, and burning of personal property.
  11. The ground floor room where the fire began – the point of origin – was destroyed. The room above the fire suffered major heat damage, says Myfox8. Pictures and video of the hotel also show scorching on the two ground floor rooms on either side of room 112. The motel’s second-floor walkway ceiling tiles were cooked and left hanging.
  12. WRAL video said that, in the aftermath of the fire, the hotel was completely shut down pending a county safety inspection, and there was no word on when that would happen.


First, the arson tactics used here successfully damaged at least four motel rooms, and possibly others. Arson is, unfortunately, a highly effective and destructive tactic against hotels and motels. Muir Analytics has nearly 100 cases of arson, large and small, in its hotel violence database and file system.

Second, if the arsonist’s overall goal was to destroy the whole motel, he failed. Still, he did cause severe economic damage to the property by causing long term revenue losses for several rooms and temporary revenue losses for the whole hotel. Arson can disproportionately impact a hotel/motel regarding the level of effort required and the physical and financial destruction achieved. It is a popular tool amongst criminals and terrorists alike – witness the 2008 Mumbai attacks where terrorists used arson to set much of the iconic Taj Mahal hotel on fire.

Third, the motel might face a rough estimate of $120,000 in repairs and refurbishing. It costs at least $75,000 to build and furnish a two-star motel room, which provides a good metric to assess possible reconstruction costs. The Royal Inn appears to have four rooms damaged, two of them severely. These latter two require total reconstruction, minus concrete work, unless the concrete was cooked and structurally damaged. According to Oregon’s fire Debris Management Task Force, concrete strength can drop by 50-60% in fires that reach 750 degrees. Depending on heat and scorching damages, the other affected rooms and walkway might cost less than half of $75,000. Cleaning out all these fire-damaged rooms before reconstruction and ridding them of fire smell will add to refurbishing costs. When labor rates and lost room revenues are tacked on, a low six-figure repair estimate is certainly reasonable.

Fourth, Dunn and Bradstreet statistics say the Royal Inn earns $129,453.00 a year, so the reconstruction costs here will hurt earnings. The negative economic hit on this property is especially injurious because the motel recently underwent a property improvement program that upgraded its rooms and exterior.

Fifth, based on initial reporting, it appears the motel’s security and fire prevention safeguards might have been lacking because the arsonist had 30 minutes to commit his crime. (If evidence to the contrary becomes available, Muir Analytics will change this analysis.) The motel’s CCTV system that provided police with the key evidence to identify the perpetrator – by recording his every move during his criminal act – could have alerted motel management/security to call the fire department before the fire fully developed. It could also have caused motel management/security to evacuate the building before the fire department arrived, thereby ensuring guest safety. Smart CCTV or 24-7 manned CCTV would have prevented the severe damages in this case.

As an aside, there has been no reporting so far on whether room 112’s fire alarm went off or not, or if it was disabled or not. If it had gone off, the fire department response might have been faster, resulting in fewer damages, and guests would have evacuated the building sooner.

In the end, more effective fire safety measures, including CCTV protocols, would have prevented the more extensive damages suffered at the Royal Inn, thereby saving the hotel significant revenues and possible insurance headaches.

Sources and further reading:

1 arrested; Cumberland County motel fire now investigated as arson attack,” MyFox8, 1 August 2022.

Police arrested Dunham for First Degree Arson and Burning of Personal Property,” WRAL, 31 July 2022.

How much does it cost to build the average hotel?,” Fixr.com, 18 January 2022.

Concrete foundations damaged by the fire may be unsafe for rebuilding,” Oregon Debris Management Task Force, 29 March 2021.

Royal Inn,” Dunn and Bradstreet website.

Muir Analytics runs the world’s largest, most sophisticated hotel violence database – the SecureHotel Threat Portal – with over 2,200 hotel attacks (and growing.) We can provide the hospitality sector with intelligence that facilitates full-spectrum risk reduction, which helps hotels protect guests, staff, buildings, brands, and revenues. Contact us for a consultation:  1-833-DATA-444.

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