Crews examining photos, videos after massive Newport estate fire

Photo credit: Rob Raffa

NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — Newport’s Fire Marshal tells Eyewitness News that photos and video footage are still being examined in the investigation of the fire that destroyed a multi-million dollar Newport estate.

The Newport Fire Department said the historic Bellevue Avenue home was being completely renovated when the fire started around 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

Officials said all parties involved with the renovation of the home are still being notified.

Cleanup at the home has not yet begun, as the investigators are still trying to determine why the 9,000-square-foot estate burned to the ground Thursday evening.

The once magnificent Stonor Lodge estate is now considered to be a total loss.

Newport Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano said the type of structure – and Mother Nature – made it difficult for firefighters to battle the blaze.

“There were wide spaces in between the walls as they renovated and it certainly added fuel to the fire. The winds just took it right down,” she told Eyewitness News.

The Newport Fire Department said the home was being completely renovated when the fire started around 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

According to Mayor Napolitano, fire companies from Middletown, Jamestown and the nearby Navy base responded to the blaze to provide backup to Newport firefighters.

A photo of the home in the late 1800s. (Photo courtesy of Newport City Hall)
A photo of the home in the late 1800s. (Photo courtesy of Newport City Hall)

Eyewitnesses said initially, the flames were shooting 50 to 60 feet into the air.

The massive size of the fire and blowing winds forced firefighters into defense-mode – as they rushed to contain the flames before they spread to another nearby home in the Bellevue Avenue Historic District.

It took firefighters an hour and a half to get the fire under control.

No injuries were reported, but there were 25 construction workers that were on scene when the fire started.

The home is owned by Whaletail LLC out of New York.

Mayor Napolitano said the fire is particularly painful because she knew the previous owner, Noreen Drexel, who passed away in 2012.

“She opened it up to the residents and to others to promote causes that she thought were good for us,” the mayor said.

The Drexel Family sold the home to Whaletail in 2013 for $3.2 million, according to city records.

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