News of the fire at the historic View Point Inn in Corbett - perched overlooking the Columbia River Gorge - hits hard. This isn't any old building: It's a remnant of the past that appears on the National Register of Historic Places. In short, the inn is irreplaceable.

The good news is that the structure wasn't a complete loss. Damage was limited to the roof, attic and second floor. And smoke and water damage occurred on the lower floors. The owners of the inn say it will take about $1 million to make repairs.

While we are sympathetic to the owners - Geoff Thompson and Angelo Simione - we can't help but wonder how they could have placed this jewel of the gorge at such risk by allowing their insurance to lapse in April.

Perhaps the best that will come from this story is the cautionary message that applies to all businesses: Insurance isn't an optional expense because too much rides on the sudden loss - jobs, investment, and in this case, the historic value.

There is no gentle way to say this, except to say it was irresponsible of the owners to allow the insurance to lapse. Mistakes happen, but that does nothing to erase the fact that inaction by Thompson and Simione has placed in doubt the future of the View Point Inn.

Worse, they have gone to the public with a plea for donations to help them restore the structure, which would have been covered had they simply carried the appropriate insurance. Now, they think it's appropriate to ask the public - both near and far - to come to their aid.

We aren't prepared to tell well-intentioned people to ignore these pleas. If individuals feel compelled to donate to Thompson and Simione, then by all means send the money.

But before you write the check or log on to PayPal, first consider this: The View Point Inn, at the time of the fire, had scheduled 50 weddings through October, and had collected up to $3,000 in deposits from each of those clients. Somewhere in that cash flow there was money to pay for insurance.

Because the View Point's ownership had recently filed for bankruptcy, that's all the more reason to carry insurance. They should at least have been responsible enough to protect the financial interests of their creditors.

Coming to the rescue of the View Point Inn is a worthy cause because of its historic value, but donors should think long and hard before signing that check to rescue the owners.

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