Clifton Inn Burns; Two Die

Shortly before dawn this morning, a fire gutted the Clifton Inn in Shadwell, killing two guests and seriously injuring a third. Several people had to leap from the windows in order to escape. The cause of the fire is unknown. The Clifton Inn is well known for their fine prix fixe dining and has long been a popular upscale retreat for visitors from out of town. WINA has the story.

7 thoughts on “Clifton Inn Burns; Two Die”

  1. Leap from the windows? Where was the fire department when they needed them? Does anyone know what the response times for various departments were?

    It is never a wise business decision to incinerate lawyers. I smell pending litigation.

  2. If there was any negligence on the part of the Clifton Inn, then whether or not the victims are lawyers, there should be litigation.

  3. If there’s going to be litigation I doubt it will be due to the response times of the fire/rescue personnel. According to reports the alarm was sounded at 5:15 a.m. – I was across the street at Stone-Robinson Elementary at 5:45 dropping my daughter off for a field trip to DC (charter buses left at 6:00), and there were probably dozens of fire, police and rescue vehicles there, with personnel actively engaged.

    Now as to the presence/effectiveness of sprinklers, alarm systems and fire escape planning inside the Inn, that’s a different matter.

    The one sure thing is that it’s a tragedy all the way around.

  4. I didnt mean to imply it had anything to do with response times. I just wondered why people were forced to jump out of windows.

    I just meant that when lawyers are involved in an accident, there is usually litigation.

  5. This morning, Channel 29 reported that there were $200,000 in damages. Considering the report in the Daily Progress that the place was "gutted," I am having a very hard time believing that.

    $200,000 sounds about right for just smoke damage to a property like that. If it was indeed ‘gutted,’ they will probably run through $40-50,000 in interior demolition and debris removal alone. A building that age and size probably has a replacement value between $3 and $4 million. Conservatively. Not including contents.

    $200,000 might be enough to fix it up to the point of being habitable, but that’s not what the standard is for a historic building like that. You can’t just throw up some drywall and carpet and consider it fixed. Plaster and lathe walls, balloon or timber framing, antique wood flooring, etc. That’s what has to be involved.

    I sure hope that they were properly insured for replacement cost rather than market value, because otherwise there are going to be some very disappointed owners when they see what little $200,000 gets them.

    Owners of older homes and buildings like the Clifton Inn rarely want to face up to the amount of money that they are really sitting on. Older houses cost a lot more per square foot to replace than new construction does. The kind of quality, materials and attention to detail that you find in antique homes was more common back when labor was cheap or free and big lumber was more plentiful. You could buy a 150 year old house in Albemarle County for $300,000 that would cost $600,000 to rebuild. Most owners of those houses will buy an insurance policy that only covers the $300,000 because they don’t want to double their premiums. This is a very bad idea if you really care about your property.

  6. I, too, was at Stone-Robinson Elementary for the field trip by about 5:40. A couple of emergency vehicles passed me on the way up 250 and I was struck by what I thought was a lack of urgency. Please do not read this as a criticism of our emergency response crews. To the contrary, I value and appreciate very much their efforts. As I watched events unfolding across the street I was wondering if the fire burned, and was extinguished, quickly, as it didn’t seem like much was happening.

    All in all it is a sad time for our school community. The Clifton Inn is a supporter of our school and our thoughts are with them.

  7. In response to your comment on the various emergency departments whereabouts, rescue response was less than 6 minutes after the call was received. The whereabouts of the fire department cannot be blamed on response times; they have a shorter response time than rescue. At the time of dispatch for rescue there were also no known patients, this would mean a slower and safer response. Overall, it would have helped if the alarm had been sounded sooner. Early detection most likely would have been the greatest help in this situation.

    The deaths in this fire are a tragedy but cannot be blamed on local volunteer and career firefighters or EMS.

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