The Newport hotel catches fire; 3 firefighters injured

NEWPORT, RI (WPRI) – Three firefighters were injured while battling a massive blaze that raged through a Newport hotel on Monday night.

Firefighters rushed to the Wayfinder Hotel on Admiral Kalbfus Road shortly after 8pm after reporting heavy flames and smoke billowing from the building.

Plumes of thick black smoke thickened the air above the city, and the bright orange glow of the flames could be seen for miles around.

Newport Deputy Fire Chief Mark Riding told 12 News that three firefighters suffered minor injuries, although no guests were injured.

“We actually had a firefighter [fall] through the floor,” Riding said. “He was rescued by the crews that were with him.”

Once the floors began to crumble, Riding said firefighters were ordered to evacuate the building and attack the fire from the outside.

“We don’t know if it was the heat or the weight of the water that caused the collapses,” he added.

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The flames engulfed all four floors of the hotel and completely destroyed the vast majority of the building, according to Riding, although some parts could still be salvaged.

Riding said the fire was tricky because there were “two-foot gaps between” each floor, allowing the fire to spread quickly.

“We just couldn’t get between floors,” he explained.

The devastating blaze comes ahead of one of the hotel’s busiest weekends, when hundreds of tourists flock to the seaside town to celebrate the unofficial start of summer.

Jennifer Echeverry and her husband were staying at the Wayfinder while on vacation. The couple had gone out to dinner and returned to find the building engulfed in flames.

“It’s all in there, so what we have left is what we have left,” Echeverry said.

The couple plan to return to Florida on Wednesday morning, though their identification and personal effects are among the charred debris.

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Echeverry said the hotel has moved several of its guests to other nearby hotels, including them.

After spending the night at the other hotel, Echeverry said they decided to stop by the Wayfinder on Tuesday morning in a last-ditch effort to collect some of their belongings.

“We hope to be able to get a picture [of the aftermath] …and use the story to get us on the plane,” she said. “But we will make the most of it and get new things.”

The building inspector tells 12 News that guests and employees will not be allowed back into the building until it is deemed safe. He said that probably won’t happen until Wednesday.

Wayfinder Hotel owner and Dovetail + Co. CEO Phil Hospod thanked everyone for their support.

“It’s truly awful,” Hospod said in a statement. “At the moment, we are only focusing on the well-being of our customers and employees.”

“We appreciate the community support during this difficult time and will provide updates as we assess the situation and determine next steps,” he continued.

The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.

The Wayfinder Hotel sits across from the old Newport Grand Casino. The building previously housed the MainStay hotel before being purchased by Dovetail + Co. in January 2019.

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