Kingston Inn will rise from the ashes

KINGSTON — Kingston Inn owner Michael Prestley expects it will be another three to four weeks before insurance companies complete their inspections of the charred structure.

But in the meantime, he is anxiously waiting to starting recreating one of the Little City by the Sea’s most loved dining establishments. In fact, he wants to have a new structure up and running at the same site by May 1.

“I’m waiting crazily to get this building up again,” he said.

While busy dealing with insurance companies and making sure his employees were paid on time, Prestley showed up at North Kitsap Fire & Rescue’s community “After The Fire” meeting Thursday evening to chime in on the Sept. 20 blaze that gutted his business. He wanted to let the community know that he is still around and has no plans to go anywhere.

While the building and fire codes that are standard today were not available in 1983 when the building was constructed, Prestley said he will definitely have a monitored fire system and sprinkler system installed in the new building. He was also quite proud to announce that he was able to pay his employees that day, and include money from the community-supported Kingston Inn Employee Fund that was started at American Marine Bank right after the fire.

But his efforts are not just about business.

“This isn’t about us, it’s about the community,” he said. “We’ll be back and it will be the same Kingston Inn. We owe it to the community.”

While North Kitsap Fire & Rescue Fire Chief Paul Nichol, community services specialist Michéle Laboda, firefighter Ken LeMay and Kitsap County Fire Marshall Derrick Crawley explained in detail the order of events the night of the fire. They also emphasized how fast the fire spread and how important it was that people got out when they did.

Within the five minutes that firefighters arrived on the scene, they would have had two, maybe three, minutes to rescue people from inside the building before it would be too dangerous, even for firefighters, LeMay added, because the fire had spread so fast.

“Those of you who were in there know now,” Nichol said. “Be extremely grateful you got out.”

The fire officials, plus the Kitsap County Central Communications dispatcher and call receiver who handled the calls Sept. 20 and were in attendance, emphasized importance of calling 911 at the first sign that something may be wrong.

Laboda said witnesses in the restaurant had observed odd smells throughout the day and the lights had been flickering as early as 1 p.m. If someone had called 911 upon noticing these signs, the fire department could have checked out the building, saving it from the disaster it faced.

Crawley added that the first call to 911 is the most important because that is when fire districts are alerted to a situation and can respond.

“Everything you can do to get that first call in, that is so critical,” he said.

Phone calls that 911 receives provide a large amount of information for firefighters so they know how to prepare for the situation while en route to the scene, Crawley said.

Laboda said when calling from cell phones along a shoreline, callers should make sure to tell the 911 receiver what county they are in because cell phones work like radios and the call may be picked up by another dispatch center in another county.

In doing so, such calls can be quickly transferred to the appropriate county.

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