Joe’s Ranch House, located on Route 652 in Beach Lake, burned to the ground Thursday night.
The first call went out at 9:58 p.m. Crews from Wayne County, Welcome Lake, Honesdale, White Mills, Seelyville, Narrowsburg, Lake Covington, Lava, Hortonville, Central, Forest, and Tusten assisted Beach Lake Fire Department with the blaze.
Tusten and White Mills provided two ambulances and Wayne Ambulance had a paramedic, which was later replaced with Pike ALS out of Hawley when an incident unrelated to the fire at Joe’s Ranch House occurred and a citizen had to be taken to the hospital.
Beach Lake Fire Chief Tony Franklin said "well over 200" firefighters were on the scene and they were there until 6 a.m. Friday.
He said that Waymart covered Honesdale since so much equipment was on scene. Other crews were on standby in case they were needed for another emergency.
"We had three ariel towers, a five inch hose, an excavator from Pioneer, and a fuel truck from Highhouse," says Franklin. "Milanville and 652 were both closed."
He said they had several miles of hose out and two draft sites for tanker trucks.
"It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of money down the drain now," says Joe Krempasky, owner of the restaurant. "Today (Friday) is my birthday and this is one hell of a birthday present."
The business had undergone renovations a few weeks ago.
Franklin said that there were between 12 and 15 customers in the restaurant when it occurred, but everyone got out okay.
"This wasn’t just a bar. It was a severance place," Krempasky says. "We put our all into the building."
At press time the cause of the fire was still being investigated. Krempasky says it started in the storage room.
"I left at 9:30 and wasn’t home very long before I got the call," he says.
"I saw the smoke and went back to see what was going on."
Along with the restaurant, there were five apartments. One of them was completely destroyed, and one was partially destroyed. The other three had smoke damage, but Franklin says he thinks they’ll be salvageable.
"We were watching a movie when we started getting knocks on the door to get out," says Joseph Paul, one of the tenants.
He lived with two other people.
Franklin said that it was a citizen who knocked on the tenants’ doors to get out.
"We were able to get our cats out, but couldn’t get anything else," Paul adds.
Those three tenants lived in the damaged apartment, but lost a lot. They couldn’t even grab a jacket first.
"It was horrible," he says. "All you could see was thick black smoke. There were many trucks lined up trying to put out the fire."
He says it seemed to burn in an L-shaped pattern.
All of the tenants praised the firemen for their hard work at putting the fire out.
"I want to thank all of the fire departments for their help," says Krempasky. "They worked so hard and did the very best they could."
Two firefighters had minor injuries and had to be taken to the hospital, but no other injuries occurred.
"Ironically, we were at a minor fire the night before at the Beach Lake Cafe," says Franklin.
Franklin said it is too early to say if there is even a possibility the fires could be related.
Pennsylvania State Police Dunmore, issued a statement Friday that said the "PSP Fire Marshall Unit is investigating this incident. At this time the cause of the fire is undetermined."