Owner of Norfolk hotel destroyed by fire facing several charges

Posted at 5:25 PM, Aug 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-06 17:25:17-04

Norfolk, Va. - For days now, firefighters and inspectors have scrutinized the charred shell of the M Star Hotel on Shore Drive. Now the owner is facing 20 charges for not having smoke detectors installed properly, endangering guests and a host of other violations.

A two-alarm fire destroyed much of the hotel on Wednesday.

Now, investigators want to know how the fire started and how it spread. They also want to know how, according to survivors who spoke to NewsChannel 3, smoke built up in the attic and in some rooms without triggering a call to the fire department.

“8 o’clock, I woke up to the smell of burning plastic. I called down and let them know I smelled burning plastic and a little smoke started to fill my room,” says John Jenkins.

Emily Schomisch and John Jenkins told us they smelled smoke and knew something was wrong nearly an hour before flames broke through the roof.

Investigators are trying to figure out if alarms sounded, or failed. Several who escaped told us there were no alarms at all.

"No alarm went off. Nothing," said one man.

"We didn't hear no alarms. We didn't hear nothing go off. There was no warning. Nothing," another man said.

But inspectors do know that many of the people they interviewed had been in the hotel too long. Norfolk only allows hotel stays of 30 days, but some told us and investigators, they'd been living there three months.