WILLMINGTON, N.Y. (WCAX) New York state fire inspectors are working to determine the cause of a fire at Whiteface Mountain.
Resort staff members say an employee noticed the mid-station lodge was on fire just before 9 p.m. Saturday night. We’re told they immediately called 911 and 20 personnel from Wilmington Fire Department and Upper Jay Fire Department responded.
Scott Christiansen of the Olympic Regional Development Authority says the resort was closed by the time the flames broke out and no one was inside of the lodge.
“As soon as you get notified of anything like that, the first thing is of safety and of concern for staff and guests but since we knew the timing of it, the possibility of someone being in there was minimal,” he said.
Christiansen says due to the remote location of the lodge, it took a while for first responders to get there.
“The building is tough to get to. It’s a tough location as you know. It’s halfway up the mountain,” Christiansen said. “So getting the fire crew up there and staff up there and first responders up there was a challenge but we were able to do it. Really the flames were contained to just that building so it burned for quite a few hours. Probably within an hour or two everything was kind of under control.”
Guests and staff say the mid-station lodge was a popular place to dine and relax.
Darcy Norfolk says her kids, who train with the New York Ski Educational Foundation, used to go there for coffee breaks and to warm up in between sessions.
“You know, it’s just part of the culture of being here at Whiteface,” she said.
Skiers told WCAX News they were shocked when they heard what happened.
“It started when I was sleeping and my sister came into my room and yelled, ‘The mid-station is caught on fire. It’s gone.’ And I’m like, ‘Wait, what?’” said 9-year-old Julia. “I was sad because my favorite memory there was getting hot chocolate and candy and watching the good skiers go flying down the slopes.”
As sad as skiers are about the loss of mid-station lodge, they say that won’t stop them from making memories at Whiteface.
“Whiteface is a big mountain and there are a lot of places to stop and eat. And between Bear’s Den and all of the new facilities at the base lodge, there are a lot of places they’ll explore until, one day, when mid-way station is rebuilt,” said Norfolk.
According to Christiansen, staffers are looking into constructing a replacement building. He says the lost structure was made out of timber, was built in the 1950s, and needed to be modernized.
“I think based on what we’re hearing from our guests and our staff and the needs of the facility then you kind of determine exactly what could be,” he said.
New York State fire inspectors were at the resort on Sunday assessing the damage and interviewing any potential witnesses.
Christiansen says the resort was fully operational on Sunday and they plan to run it as usual for the rest of the season.