Fire hazards at Beachgate Inn

Hazardous conditions were uncovered at the Beachgate Inn after a vehicle stuck and killed a pedestrian and left severe damage to the building.

When police arrived on the scene they determined that a 72-year-old man had passed out from a medical condition while driving his car down Euclid Ave. towards Colonial Ave. around 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning. The vehicle

traveled across Colonial and into the parking lot of the Beachgate Inn located at 800 Colonial Ave.

According to a press release by Chief Kenneth Blevins, Sr., “After striking the hotel sign, the vehicle struck two parked cars and several support rails before striking an outside wall of the hotel. The male victim, age 62, that was struck had been visiting a relative for an extended period of time at the hotel. He was standing beside his vehicle, which was the second parked vehicle that was struck when the accident occurred.”

The victim was taken to Mary Washington Hospital by helicopter and pronounced dead a short time after. The driver of the vehicle was also transported to Mary Washington Hospital where he was treated and released.

The damage to the building was inspected by Building Inspector Dexter Monroe. Monroe found several hazardous conditions, many of which were electrical in nature.

Monroe called in State Fire Marshal Timothy Ritchey from the Virginia Department of Fire and Safety to inspect the building because of serious concerns he had for the electrical system and to determine if they could be remedied.
According to Town Manager Val Foulds there were other violations, but the focus was on electrical violations which were outlined in an affidavit by Ritchey.

The affidavit stated, “There are dangerous conditions likely to contribute to the spread of fire in the hotel.”

Ritchey sited loose electrical connections and damaged conduits and said the main electrical feed going into the facility is worn and is not secured. Furthermore he stated that the main electrical feed, which is hot, is hanging off of the back of the building because the wood to which it was previously attached has rotted. He stated that “This is a concern because wind could cause these wires to spark and cause a fire.”

Ritchey also stated in his affidavit that electrical outlets in the rooms are not wired correctly, estimating 75 percent of the outlets are not properly grounded. He explained if too much current comes through the wires, they will just continue to spark rather than shut off, thus potentially resulting in fire.

Pictures obtained by the Journal showed neglect and unsafe wiring conditions at the hotel. The Journal gained access to over 300 photos of conditions in the hotel that range from poor and unsightly repairs to serious fire and health violations.

Pictures show cracked or missing caulk between tubs and showers with can produce deadly mold in the drywall behind the tub and tiles as well as electrical issues. Just a few of the unsafe conditions included, outlets installed on cabinets, outlets in drywall or light fixtures on ceiling with visible water damage around them.

Several pictures show exposed covered wires, outlets with no covers and covered wires connecting light switches to outlets with the connecting wires running outside the walls and light fixtures with exposed bare wires in the ceiling, many of which hang from the electrical wires and are not properly mounted or not mounted at all.

Ritchey also listed in his affidavit, “Hazardous conditions created by the residents living there such as the use of a number of appliances, in use by residents, that far exceed the electrical load.” He stated many rooms had a full-size refrigerator, a microwave, a large screen television and other assorted cooking items such as frying pans, toaster ovens, etc.

Monroe told council members, in a special meeting, that deep fryers were discovered to be in use, sitting on toilets in the bathroom. Monroe also told council that the fire watch was necessary because fire alarms that had been installed on Wednesday, Dec. 19 had batteries removed the next day and by Friday the hard wiring had been disconnected.

Monroe also explained that the hotel was not electrically wired or zoned for residential living, rather for transient use only. The addition of residential appliances and added electric cords to power these appliances has added to an already deteriorated condition.

Monroe told the council, Simms, the building owner, gave him the impression that the day after it is shut down he will have someone in there working on it.

Monroe told council that Simms agreed to arrange and pay for someone to perform a fire watch at the hotel until Dec. 27, giving residents time to make other arrangements and seek help from government agencies that would be closed for the holidays.

Colonial Beach Town Council held an emergency meeting on Sunday, Dec. 23 after officials were informed that Building Inspector Dexter Monroe was notified of Simms’ intentions to stop payment for fire watch services.

All members of council were present, including councilwoman elect Wanda Goforth, CBPD Chief Kenneth Blevins, Building Inspector Dexter Monroe, Town Attorney Andrea Erard, Town Manager Val Foulds and Town Clerk Kathy Flanagan.

Monroe told the council that Simms originally agreed to pay for fire watch services through Dec. 26. Leaving residents to have to move out on Dec. 27. Simms hired Northern Neck Building to perform the watches needed to ensure the safety of individuals staying there.

Monroe told the council on Dec. 22, the individual responsible for performing the fire watch notified Monroe that he has been instructed by  Simms to only work until 2 a.m. on Dec. 24

After discussions and legal counseling, the council passed a resolution authorizing the town manager to spend up to $4,000 to hire one or more qualified individuals to perform a twenty-four hour fire watch at the Beachgate Inn beginning at 2:01a.m. on Dec. 24 and ending midnight Jan. 3.


Linda Farneth