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After ‘Long Night’ of Evacuations, Cleanup Work Underway After Fire at Hotel Vermont

An award-winning upscale restaurant in Burlington, Vermont, has been forced to shut down temporarily following a fire that started in a kitchen venting system that left crowds evacuating the hotel building that houses it.

Crews were on top of Hotel Vermont in downtown Burlington Wednesday, appearing to inspect the roof and ductwork, after flames from a kitchen exhaust system at Hen of the Wood forced a few hundred people to evacuate Tuesday night.

"As a hotelier, getting that phone call that there's fire is just your worst nightmare," Hotel Vermont's general manager, Hans Van Wees, told necn Wednesday. "It's a call you don't want to get."

Van Wees estimated roughly 350 people were evacuated, between hotel guests, Hen of the Wood diners, and customers of the bar and restaurant Juniper, which is also housed in Hotel Vermont.

It took several hours for firefighters to give the building the all-clear, Van Wees said.

"I didn't feel at risk, necessarily," traveler Alex Shard from the United Kingdom said of his evacuation from Hotel Vermont. "[It was] just a long night."

Van Wees showed necn the cleanup work inside six of the upscale property's 125 rooms that were left with a lingering smoke smell.

The building dodged fire and water damage, though, because flames were contained to a six-story duct from Hen of the Wood that vents up through the building's roof.

The award-winning restaurant is a hotel tenant.

"The [kitchen] hoods were actually cleaned on [July 24], so we have a lot of talking to do," said chef-owner Eric Warnstedt, adding that he expects to be shut down for a month, easily, while new ductwork is installed.

The temporary closure comes as a big blow during the critical summer travel period in the Burlington area, the business owner said.

"Especially now, in August — it's the busiest month of the year, sadly," Warnstedt said.

Ed and Kate Canning of Rupert, Vermont, said Wednesday they are already looking forward to a return trip to the restaurant, after they had to rush out before their food even came.

"It's one of our favorite cities," Ed Canning said of Burlington. "We had just ordered a really nice bottle of wine and one of the staff said, 'Oh here, let's put a cork in that bottle — take the bottle with you.' And I thought that was extremely thoughtful, given the circumstances of a very chaotic event happening."

For now, Hotel Vermont said it is grateful no one was hurt. The general manager noted he expected his handful of smoke-affected rooms to be back in good shape, like the rest of the hotel's spaces, very quickly.

"It was a relief," Van Wees said.

Van Wees had nothing but praise for the Burlington Fire Department and Burlington Police Department for their speedy response to Tuesday's fire.

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