HORICON — State Police are looking into whether the man whose cigar was blamed for starting the fire that destroyed the lodge at Ridin’ Hy Ranch should face criminal charges.
The man, a guest at the lodge, is believed to have put a lighted cigar in a paper cup on a second-floor balcony, according to the Horicon Fire Department. Authorities don’t believe he intentionally caused the fire but are questioning whether his actions were reckless.
The State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation was looking into the matter as of Monday and said no decision had been made on potential charges.
Horicon Fire Chief Scott Hayes said the man believed the cigar was out when he put it in the cup.
The Friday afternoon fire destroyed the lodge, which housed a restaurant, bar and rooms on the second floor. One firefighter suffered a facial injury, but all of the patrons who were inside were evacuated.
The fire broke out near a room where an older woman was sleeping, and she was rescued from the burning building by ranch co-owner Troy Beadnell. Hayes said the fire started in room No. 1 of the lodge, and after trying to put out the fire, Beadnell went around the flames to get to room No. 3, where the woman was.
Horicon Town Supervisor Matt Simpson said Troy Beadnell likely saved the woman.
“She was in her room asleep, on oxygen. He probably saved her life,” he said.
The Beadnells have not publicly commented on the fire, other than a comment on their business’ Facebook page pledging to rebuild. No one answered the ranch phone Monday afternoon.
Glens Falls firefighters, who handle fire investigation services in Warren County, are investigating the cause, and their report was still pending as of Monday afternoon, Glens Falls Fire Chief James Schrammel said.
Initial reports were that there were 200 people in the lodge when the fire broke out, but officials said Monday there were likely only 50 or so. The 200 number was an estimate from the first person to call 911 to report the fire, authorities said.
The ranch is closed until further notice. Simpson said the town zoning administrator has been working with the Beadnells on a demolition permit, and demolition of the lodge was scheduled to begin Tuesday.
Warren County Fire Coordinator Brian LaFlure said firefighters were hindered at times by at least one vehicle that couldn’t be moved, because its owner’s keys were in his room in the burning lodge.
“There were a lot of people there, and some of them lost everything,” he said.
Firefighters were called back out to the North Sherman Lake Road lodge on Saturday when the remnants of the building rekindled.
The main lodge was also destroyed by fire in July 1982, then rebuilt.