STANHOPE — The Stanhope Beach Resort and Conference Centre is no more, destroyed down to the ground by fire Tuesday.
The fire was reported at 3:48 p.m. by staff working at the facility. As flames whipped the fire into an inferno, staff was busy trying to save furniture, paintings and whatever else they could carry out before flames forced them to scramble to safety.
By the time members of the North Shore fire department began arriving less than 15 minutes later, the main lodge was a massive ball of flames.
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There was a staff of between six and eight people working Tuesday, back and forth between the Stanhope property and Dalvay by the Sea, some six kilometres away. Both are owned by D.P. Murphy Inc.
All staff were accounted for, safe and unhurt, said an office member at the scene.
Danny and brother Kevin Murphy, the previous owner of the resort, stood and watched the inferno for part of the afternoon, taking numerous expressions of support and encouragement from people watching the scene.
They left moments before an excavator ground across a landscaped garden on its way to smashing down the last standing, but still burning wall of the homestead. All that remained were chimney pillars.
Firefighters from five departments smothered the fire with a dose of foam to end the blaze some three hours after it began, but crews were expected to remain all night to tackle hot spots and help investigators seek the cause.
A total of four buildings, some of them adjoining, were levelled in the blaze.
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P.E.I. Fire Inspector Dave Rossiter said that Charlottetown fire station two arrived with a ladder truck and tankers, while East River, North River and New Glasgow fire departments all brought tankers to help. Island EMS had an ambulance on standby at the scene.
At the back of the resort, a torpedo-style outdoor propane tank was a source of concern and water was poured in a deluge over it during the course of the fire, said Rossiter.
Strong winds off the nearby bay drove flames and smoke into a massive plume out over the North Shore. The towering smoke was visible from Charlottetown.
"We have some high winds that are not helping things," said Rossiter.
RCMP issued a request for spectators to stay away as they were disrupting the flow of safety vehicles.
Resort staff told Guardian photographer Brian McInnis they were inside cleaning when flames suddenly erupted just before 4 p.m. There were no guests at the resort.
The resort was being prepared for the opening of the new tourist season and was scheduled to open the first week of May. There was plans to host a private fashion show at the resort this weekend, a fundraiser for Oak Acres children's camp, said a staff member.
Stanhope Beach Resort & Conference Centre re-opened in the summer of 2010 under its new and current owners Danny and Martie Murphy.
The property was first settled more than two centuries ago in 1789 and first began to accept guests after 1855.
The property underwent extensive restoration and renovations in 2010, bringing back some of the property’s antiquity.
The resort had 85 rooms, from traditional to luxurious multi-bedroom cottages.
A new 200-seat conference centre was also added.
At the peak of the tourist season the resort employs close to 100 people.