KINGSTON — “Disheartening.”
That’s the word Sheila Powar uses when it comes to the Feb. 8 arson fire at the Blue Water Inn in Kingston.
On Feb. 10, Sheila and Harvey Powar, the inn’s owners, were waiting outside the motel for the fire marshal to come and survey the damage.
“We’ll find out how many rooms — if any — we can open up in the front (part of the inn),” Harvey said. “It’s up to the fire marshal and the insurance company now.”
While they waited, they recounted how, two days earlier, a familiar guest had checked into their inn. Harvey recalled that the 60-year-old man “had stayed here maybe 10 times in the last two years. We thought we knew him.”
At about 3:30 a.m., the guest allegedly set fire to their motel. (The suspect was arrested by deputies and reportedly admitted he set the fire.)
Thanks to prompt action by the Powars, North Kitsap Fire and Rescue, and Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies, all of the guests got out safely, the fire was extinguished, and deputies captured the suspect.
But the motel is uninhabitable.
“This is really disheartening,” Sheila said as she sat waiting in their car for the fire marshal on Feb. 10. “I don’t think he (the arsonist) realizes what he has taken away. Families have lost their homes.”
When the fire marshal arrived and inspected the damage, the news was not good.
It appears the Blue Water Inn will not be reopening anytime soon, according to the Kitsap County Fire Marshal’s Office.
“I doubt they will be able to re-open without rebuilding both sides,” said Fire Marshal David Lynam. “The (detached two-story) building in the back where the fire started may very well have to be torn down and rebuilt, although that’s up to their insurance company.”
He said the inn’s front building also sustained serious damage.
“Probably 50 percent of the front building was damaged by the smoke and radiant heat from the fire in the back building,” Lynam said. The fire in the back building was so intense that the radiant heat from the flames actually set fire to the wood sheeting under the metal siding on the front buildings, Lynam said.
And if that weren’t bad enough, whatever the insurance company decides to do, Lynam suspects it’s going to be “very hard” to find people to work on the project because all of the area contractors are so busy.
Lynam did say it might be possible for the Powars to move back into just their portion of the building if the sewer, electrical and water lines to the rest of the building could be disconnected.
In the meantime, the Powars and other families have lost their home. It had originally been intended that the Red Cross would use the nearby Village Green Community Center as the location for interviewing the families that had been dispossessed by the fire. As it turned out, the Red Cross used another location instead. According to Linda Fyfe, Village Green coordinator and building manager, the Red Cross interviewed five families with regard to helping them find new shelter.
The loss of the Blue Water Inn — even temporarily — is a major loss to the community, officials say.
Colleen Carey, executive director of the Kingston Chamber of Commerce, said the inn was the only affordable, low-income housing alternative in Kingston. “I manage an apartment complex across the street (from the Blue Water Inn). People come to me and we have nothing available for them. It’s very unfortunate and I’m very concerned about those folks … now that it’s not there.”
Lynam added, “It’s unfortunate that it put so many disadvantaged people at such an added disadvantage.”
Fyfe noted there are two other affordable housing complexes in Kingston: Martha & Mary’s Village Green Senior Apartments and Times Square Apartments — but they are only for low-income seniors age 55 and older.
Ironically, Sheila Powars has been an outspoken advocate for people who are homeless or transient in the Kingston area. Now, she acknowledges sadly, “I guess we’re homeless, too.”