Big leak: Manor owner explains why he shut sprinkler
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.