HORICON — State Police have concluded the man believed responsible for starting the fire last week that destroyed the lodge at Ridin’ Hy Ranch should not face criminal charges.
Investigators said Monday the inquiry was ongoing, but as of Tuesday a decision had been made that no criminal prosecution was warranted.
A guest at the ranch was believed to have started the Friday afternoon blaze by improperly disposing of a cigar in a paper cup on a balcony next to his second-story room.
He was not believed to have intentionally started the fire but had been told to extinguish the cigar by ranch staff earlier in the day, authorities said.
He was questioned by police and fire investigators, and Horicon Fire Chief Scott Hayes said the man believed the cigar was out.
State Police Senior Investigator Steve Meacham said the Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s review of the facts led to a conclusion that the guest should not be criminally charged.
Meacham said intent to start a fire was needed for any arson count, and it was determined that the man’s actions did not rise to the level of recklessness for a charge such as reckless endangerment.
Glens Falls Fire Chief James Schrammel said his department’s investigators, who handle fire investigations in Warren County, were working Tuesday to eliminate all possible causes in the area of the fire’s origin before officially concluding what caused the blaze. They were aware of the apparent cigar issue, but wanted to make sure all potential issues were explored.
“Right now they haven’t found anything to indicate it was anything other than accidental,” Schrammel said.
Fire departments from around Warren County responded to the ranch Friday and Saturday as the blaze gutted the main lodge which housed rooms, a restaurant and bar. But they were able to salvage adjacent buildings.
The ranch will be closed indefinitely as the lodge is rebuilt.