Big leak: Manor owner explains why he shut sprinkler

[caption id="attachment_18208" align="alignleft" width="325" caption="Investigators have still not determined what caused the fire that destroyed this Stony Point estate."]southwind_400x314[/caption]

There's a perfectly good reason why the built-in sprinkler system didn't save the unoccupied multi-million-dollar mansion that burned to the ground on August 16. Owner Darren Kady says he turned the system off five years ago after a leak cost him tens of thousands.

"One of the heads gave out while I was in China," says Kady, "and I got a call from the fire department that the sprinkler system had gone off. It caused $50,000 worth of damage. So they were shut off."

The 7,000 square-foot house, named Southwind Manor and located at 4595 Belle Vista Drive, had been on the market for nearly two years at prices ranging from $3.5-3.9 million. It offered a pool, extensive interior woodwork, and expansive views of the Southwest Mountains.

According to Albemarle County fire investigators, the fire started around 4am and took 50 firefighters nearly six hours to subdue.  Investigators also said the garage doors were wide open.

More than a week after the fire, county fire investigator Howard Lagomarsino says that information about the cause is still not ready for release, though he promised a "follow up in a few days."

Meanwhile, various media reports have suggested it may have been arson, most notably an August 18 story by the Newsplex, which said the fire "now looks suspicious" and reported, believe it or not, that neighbors referred to Kady, a commercial real estate developer and part-time inventor based in North Carolina, as Lord Voldemort, the fictional villian in the Harry Potter books.

As evidence of Kady's supposedly Voldemortian ways, the Newsplex interviewed neighbor Louise Hay, who once bought a house from Kady and said her family had to stay in a hotel for several days because there was a problem with the closing.

"Comments like that make my wife and I sick," says Kady, reached at his office Wednesday morning. "To have that kind of anger lurking in the background for ten years because you didn't get into a house on time... life is full of surprises."

One of those surprises, according to Kady, was the loss of his house.

"It was a work of love," says Kady, noting that he served as general contractor and spent two years building the house and developing the road up the mountain, which was completed in 1996. He says that he and his wife, Deborah, fell in love with how beautiful it was here and planned to use the house as a second home. "It's been a work in progress all these years, keeping up the property," he adds.

Asked why he decided to put his "work of love" on the market, Kady said it was done with an eye on his retirement, not because of any rush to unload the property. Hence the offering price that was $1 million over county assessment.

Asked if he has plans to rebuild, Kady says that he and his wife are working with the insurance company and "talking about it."

Kady suspects it was a electrical fire, but says he has no information yet from investigators. As for the open garage doors, Kady said investigators had told them that they had seen this before, where the garage doors of a house are blown open by the force of the combustion inside.

As for the sprinkler system? "As far as I was concerned," says Kady, "there was no sprinkler system in house, and that's how I insured the place."

While he awaits the results of the investigation, Kady says that he and his wife have been mourning the loss of their mountaintop estate.

"It's like a death in the family," he says.


It's Voldemort, not Voldermort.

The first sprinkler activation may have saved the structure from burning as well. There have been many cases where the water from the activated sprinkler literally washed away the evidence of a fire. Only when the fire protection consultant performed a thorough investigation was it determined that there had actually been a fire. Was the first activation investigated thoroughly? There is only a 1 in 10 million chance of a sprinkler head "going off" for no direct cause, according to the NFPA.

Because he had a rare sprinkler malfunction causing $50k in damage (about 1.5% of $3.5 million anyway), he decided it would be better to risk the chance of burning a multi-million dollar house to the ground. This might make sense if he didn't really care too much about the property, but he talks about how distraught he is over the loss. It never ceases to amaze me how people build massive houses in rural areas with little to no water supply to meet the fire load in a structure that size.

I have worked with Darren and Deborah professionally for several years. In that time, I have never experienced either to show anything but the highest character and integrity.

Armchair analysis based on second-hand information provided by meet-a-deadline investigative journalists vying to make a story appear as interesting as possible will inevitably draw the wrong conclusion.

The Kady's are real people that had an unfortunate event occur in their life. Gossiping and generating unsubstantiated rumors about them is only adding to their pain.

Take a minute and ask yourself how you would like to be treated if you were in their situation.

Thank you for your time and attention.

The garage doors would also open once the fire melts the plastic away in the wires that lead from the garage door opener to the open-close switch on the wall. Assuming that the house had some type of electrical garage door opener(s) of course. I can't imagine a $3 million to $4 million dollar home not having electric garage door openers.

Therefore, assuming the house house had electric driven garage door openers, I don't see the doors being open as any big clue as to what may or my not have taken place.

And wouldn't one's homeowners insurance cover the damage if a sprinkler head "malfunctioned" anyway? I don't see that as cause to disconnect a system that probably cost far more to install that the $50,000 in damage it did anyway. And they've been trying to sell it, but at $1 million over assessment? Maybe because if they had set a reasonable, market rate price for it, their insurance company might only have been liable to pay them that lower amount? Since, arguably, thats what they were willing to part with the house for?
So, to recap: they have a one in a million* chance sprinkler malfunction, followed by a one in a million* chance fire in a home with a dormant sprinkler system, the home is vacant and on the market, but presumably for more that its worth, AND the owner had the foresight to make sure his policy covered the house in case of fire WITHOUT the sprinkler system?
Sounds fishy to me.
* roughly

And if you're hit by a flood, A hurricane, a tornado, or a "microburst," you can kiss your property and your sweet arse goodbye.

Why do these new builders keep on building McMansions, which are an affront to artists and architecture everywhere? Anyone with the money would really appreciate artistry over opulence or true architecture over ostentatious. Perhaps Paris Hilton wouldn't, but the remainder of we observers would indeed.

we all know the truth. insurance$$$$