Officials say an electrical short started a fire that consumed the Weeki Wachee Resort Motel on Commercial Drive early Sunday morning.
Capt. Rick Day of the Northwest Hernando County Fire Department said the fire was most likely caused by a short in an air conditioning unit in one of the nine-room motel's back rooms.
Hernando County sheriff's officials received a call at 1:16 a.m. Sunday. The caller reported that there was a fire and that everyone was out of the building. Officials did not release the name of the caller.
"This was an older building, and there were several false ceilings and crawl spaces," Day said. "That's why it was such a bear _ because we had to check for hidden fires."
Firefighter Mike Veach helped put out smoldering debris between the building's layers until about noon Sunday.
"It was a lot of work," he said. "We had to tear each layer apart just to make sure the fire was completely out."
The building just north of Highway 50 is now a charred pink stucco shell, its trusses and ceiling beams burned through.
"Under today's construction codes, the fire probably would have stopped with one room," Veach said. "I'm sure it will have to be torn down. It's too dangerous for anyone to go in there."
Day said the building's owner, Spring Hill doctor Raees Gazi, has been notified of the fire.
Gazi did not return telephone calls Sunday.