QUEENSBURY -- The Warren County Sheriff’s Office has joined the investigation of the Wednesday morning fire that destroyed a Queensbury auto repair business but the fire’s cause remained undetermined Thursday.
Bay Ridge Fire Chief Pat Mellon said state and local fire investigators have concluded the fire began inside Ridge Road Car Care.
He said no determination has been made whether the fire was accidental or suspicious, nor has a conclusion been reached on where in the building the fire began. The extent of the damage was hindering the effort to find where and how it started.
“It’s still under investigation and the cause is still to be determined,” Mellon said.
Glens Falls fire investigators and the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control are investigating the blaze.
Warren County Undersheriff Shawn Lamouree said the police involvement in the inquiry does not mean authorities believe the fire was arson or that a crime was committed.
“We haven’t determined it was intentionally set,” Lamouree said. “When you have a fire of this nature you want to make sure you cover everything.”
The fire was reported shortly after 2 a.m. Wednesday, and flames were shooting through the building’s roof when Bay Ridge firefighters arrived on the scene. They were unable to save the building.
At least 14 vehicles, some of them classic and/or luxury cars, including a classic Ford Mustang, BMW, Bentley and Mercedes-Benz, were destroyed.
Three or four of the cars were parked inside the garage, while another 11 outside were damaged by heat and fire that spread from oil and gasoline running out of the building and from barrels of waste oil.
A hazardous materials spill crew spent part of Wednesday cleaning the site at the direction of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Business owner Andy Ratto said he met with investigators and said sheriff’s officers asked him about disgruntled former customers when they interviewed him. He said “everyone has some,” but he did not know if that was a factor in the fire.
“They can’t find an origin as far as what they’ve told me,” he said.
Investigators from his insurance company were on the scene Thursday.
Ratto said investigators have “released” the property to him so that a cleanup can begin. He said he plans to rebuild.