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Witness photos aided in Mad River Mountain fire case

Published: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 @ 8:44 PM
Updated: Tuesday, September 29, 2015 @ 3:25 PM
By: Allison Wichie - Breaking News Staff

A fire destroyed the main building at Mad River Ski Resort in the Main Base Lodge Wednesday night. Despite the fire, the ski resort will be open this season.

  • Ski resort will be open this season
  • Investigation can’t pinpoint the cause of the fire.
  • Over 50 pieces of equipment from 16 departments responded to fire

UPDATE @ 3:20 p.m. (Sept. 29)

Michael Mihnovets, marketing manager at Mad River Mountain, said the ski resort already has plans for temporary lodges to be put into place before they open for this ski season.

The structure, called Sprung, is a fabric structure specifically engineered to withstand high wind gusts and heavy snow loads, according to the company’s website.

Mad River will tear down the destroyed lodge and put the Sprung structure on the cement foundation, Mihnovets said.

Chief Josh Hobbs, division of State Fire Marshal, Fire and Explosion Investigations Bureau, said many of the cell phone pictures and videos taken by eye witnesses who arrived at the fire scene early helped investigators determine where in the building the fire might have started.

Photos and video evidence from witnesses have aided investigators in their job in recent years, and in this fire case specifically many of the photos were looked over.

Any time a person comes across a fire scene they should call 911 and then if they can safely take pictures, they should turn them in to fire investigators, he said.

UPDATE @ 9:55 a.m. (Sept. 29)

Investigators could not determine what exactly sparked the flames that destroyed the lodge at Mad River Mountain Ski Resort in Zanesfield earlier this month.

But the state fire marshal’s office said their investigation could not rule out the possibility that a discarded cigarette or electrical issue could be to blame, said Bill Krugh, spokesman for the fire marshal’s office.

Mad River Mountain — one of the largest tourism drivers in Logan County — plans to open for business this winter despite a massive fire that gutted its 53-year-old ski lodge, said general manager Tom Price.

UPDATE @ 12:00 p.m. (Sept. 18)

At least nine people reported the fire at the Mad River Mountain lodge Thursday night to 911 dispatchers.

“The mountain lodge down at the bottom is burning out of control,” one caller said.

Another caller said, “It looks like the building is on fire.”

UPDATE @ 1:08 p.m. (Sept. 17)

Tri Valley Fire District Chief Luann Davis said when crews arrived, the rear of the building was fully engulfed. She said by the time their fire truck was parked, the front of the building had collapsed. In total, 16 different fire departments responded.

“It was all wood so it had a lot of fuel for the fire,” Davis said. “It’s heart wrenching for everybody.”

The cause of the fire is undetermined at this time.

Ray McCarthy, assistant fire chief, State Fire Marshal, said it’s just the beginning of the investigation. It will likely take through the end of next week.

“The whole back of it is completely gone; collapsed in on top of each other, so we’re going to need heavy equipment to start basically peeling back the onion to take a look at it all,” McCarthy said.

He said there’s no indications of foul play. They are now interviewing all the employees that were there yesterday, and the owners are coming in from out of town.

Tom Price, general manager at Mad River, said he’s only been on the job in Zanesfield for five weeks.

“General manager position always comes with challenges; this is just a little bigger challenge than we expected but we’re optimistic,” Price said.

Price said there’s “no reason” people won’t be able to ski at the resort this winter season.

“I believe people can come to the ski area and get the same experience they had in the past,” Price said, just without the loft that was used for food service and lounging.

Price said at the peak of season, there are over 500 employees. He doesn’t foresee any jobs affected by this fire.

“People who skied here a lot will always remember the loft,” Price said. “But we will build and make comfortable arrangements.”

Price said there’s been an outpouring of people coming to see the burned building in person.

Jim Blue, of Richwood about 15 miles away in Union County, came to witness the destroyed building. He first learned to ski at Mad River in the 60s. His children and grandchildren subsequently learned the skill here too.

“This was sort of an iconic lodge in terms of ski slopes in the state of Ohio, and for me it just has a lot of history,” Blue said. “It’s devastating to see it in person in daylight. Hopefully they can get something going so they don’t miss the season. I hope it reopens this year.”

UPDATE @ 8:08 a.m. (Sept. 17)

A post on the Mad River Mountain Facebook page Wednesday night vows skiing will continue at the Logan County ski resort that was destroyed by fire.

The post read, “We are at a loss for words. The Loft was iconic. Thanks 2 all well wishers, firefighters & public safety. #wewillstillski #memorieslive4ever”

UPDATE @ 6 a.m. (Sept. 17) Fire crews have remained on scene of a fire at the Mad River Mountain Ski Resort and continue to put out hot spots.

Crews have sprayed water on the lodge about every 30 minutes throughout the night.

UPDATE @ 10:10 p.m.: The fire that has destroyed the main building of the Mad River Mountain Ski Resort in the Main Base Lodge is under control and crews will be on scene all night dealing with hot spots, said Helen Norris, Logan County Emergency Management Agency director.

The State Fire Marshal’s office has been contacted and an investigation team will be at the scene in the morning, she said.

Norris said there have been no injuries and families living near the resort were kept away from their homes once the fire broke out. She had no firm accounting as to how many families were affected by that order.

Chester Brown, who lives near the resort, was on his way home from work and was not allowed to get to his house. His wife, who was at home when the fire started, was not allowed to leave. He said she sent him photos of the fire via her cellphone.

“It looked like an inferno,” Brown said.

Norris said there has been no determination as to what caused the fire, which was reported about 7:25 p.m. She noted that it’s too early to say whether the fire is suspicious.

The lodge was closed at the time of the fire, Norris said, and no other buildings or houses nearby were damaged.

More than 15 fire departments from four counties (Logan, Union, Hardin and Champaign) responded to the dispatch about the fire. Norris said she stopped counting at 50 when asked how many pieces of fire equipment were on scene.

FIRST REPORT

A large fire has caused significant damage to the Mad River Mountain lodge.

We have received phone calls and emails about the fire, which broke out sometime between 7:30 and 8 p.m.

Mad River Mountain is the state’s largest ski resort.

We have crews on the way and we will update this report as we get details.