Monday, February 2, 2004

Fire damages part of Wildwood Inn


Several 'theme suites' burn

By Reid Forgrave
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FLORENCE - The Egyptian Room, bedecked with busts of King Tut and Queen Nefertiti, is gone.

So is the Aladdin Room, with its scimitars, hanging lanterns and fancy rugs straight out of Arabian Nights.

[img]
Florence firefighters battle a fire in a large, vacant building on the grounds of the Wildwood Inn Sunday.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
Ditto for the Victorian, Fitzgerald, Polynesian and Contemporary rooms. All were theme rooms at the Wildwood Inn Tropical Dome and Theme Suites, a Kentucky landmark struck by a fire Sunday afternoon.

The fire that gutted one of the hotel's three buildings was the second in less than a day along this retail strip of U.S. 42 in suburban Boone County.

Saturday night, a fire 11/2 miles west of the theme hotel burned a warehouse to the ground, causing millions of dollars in damage to a half-dozen businesses housed inside, including an Amish wood products store.

No one was hurt in either fire.

Sunday afternoon at the Wildwood Inn, guests watched through the windows of the hotel's nearby "Tropical Dome" as the walls of an older building that held thousands memories of fun days and steamy nights went up in flames.

"Oh, this is just such a great place to bring the kids," said Gloria Huff, 52, of Florence. "I just live a hop, skip and a jump down the road, but we still come here. Been here two nights. Over there, those are some of the more expensive suites. It's sad to see them burn."

The flames engulfed the six suites in the smallest, oldest building on the Wildwood campus. It took 35 firefighters from four departments to douse the fire, with some spraying the flames from above with two ladder trucks.

"This place is just awesome," added Kelly Cooper, 12, best friends with Huff's daughter. "You can swim and play games and the rooms are really cool."

Fire officials did not know the cause of the fire Sunday and said the investigation would take several days.

They said they could not speculate whether this fire - or the Saturday night fire down the street - was arson.

"The only way these two fires are related is because they're both on U.S. 42," said Capt. Tom Baumann of the Florence Fire Department.

The fire started shortly before 1 p.m., after hotel patrons had checked out of their rooms. Hotel officials checked all the rooms as soon as the fire broke out; nobody was inside.

The hotel owner, Tom Kelly, was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

The main building, with faux thatched roofs and a tropical dome with a pool, heated waterfall and sauna, was untouched by the fire. Neither were a dozen safari huts at the back of the property at the Safari Village.

Theme rooms in buildings not touched by the flames included the Oriental, the Champagne Spa, the Cupid, the Rustic Country, the Hillbilly, the Western, the Nautical, the Venetian, the Happy Days and the Speedway.

None of the cave rooms - Kentucky Cave, Arizona Cave, Arctic Cave or the New Mexico Cave - were touched by the fire.

About the Wildwood Inn

Location: 7809 U.S. 42, Florence.

Features: 116-room hotel includes a tropical dome and pool area, "Safari Huts" and 21 "theme suites" including cave, western, nautical, racing car and 1950s motifs.

Burned portion: An older building containing the Aladdin, Contemporary, Egyptian, Fitzgerald, , and Victorian theme suites.

---

E-mail rforgrave@enquirer.com




ENQUIRER COLUMNS
Foe finds flaw in Bunning's recognition
Educators, parents suggest methods to help kids learn
Harriet Tubman play presented

TOP LOCAL HEADLINES
Luken makes call for tolerance
Vine Street upgrading to take time, mayor says
This vote counts
Hughes grad accepts $1.5B Kroc donation
Fire damages part of Wildwood Inn
Six businesses in Ky. warehouse are ashes
Pipes freeze, leaks flow
Airport seeks $13M for system
Ky. catching up on dental health of students
Florence found its new city manager in nearby Newport
Black History Month events around region
Study indicates townships inefficient
Join Catholic reader panel
Ind. has sendoff for Bosnia-bound troops

EDUCATION HEADLINES
'Art Works' for this school
Meetings to detail Madeira bond issue

NEIGHBORS HEADLINES
Bond Hill housing backed
Clermont voters to choose court clerk
Park lover preserves history of city's spaces
Deerfield commissions development study
Middletown woman found dead after fire

LIVES REMEMBERED
Linus Sehlhorst's flowers brightened many an occasion
Nursing home owner Al Byars gave generously to church