A 16-year-old boy from Johnstown is facing arson-related charges following three structure fires at a Christian camp in Spring Creek Township early Saturday morning. Damage estimates are well into six figures.
According to Warren-based state police, Spring Creek volunteer firefighters responded to a fire at Miracle Mountain Ranch at approximately 3:10 a.m. Saturday.
During the blaze, three buildings used by the horse department at the ranch were burned.
Times Observer photos by Jacob Perryman
Mustangers Feed and Seed, at left, was one of three buildings destroyed at Miracle Mountain Ranch in Spring Creek Township due to an incident of arson early Saturday morning. The Livery Shed, above, at Miracle Mountain Ranch in Spring Creek Township was also destroyed. Police say a 16-year-old Johnstown boy faces charges in the blazes.
The state police arson investigator has ruled the cause of the fire to be arson. Police have not released the name of the teen.
The ranch's Livery Shed Hay Storage, Mustangers Feed and Seed, and the Critter Corral were deemed complete losses, according to a statement on the facility's website.
In addition to structural losses, bales of hay, tack, feed and equipment were destroyed in the fires.
No official estimate of the total loss was available Monday, but Chief Financial Officer Mark Brenner said the ranch's insurance company would be doing an assessment Monday afternoon. In a Monday morning press release, the state police estimated damage at approximately $200,000.
"It will be in the hundreds of thousands," Brenner said.
Although the ranch reported no horses lost, the Critter Corral housed a number of small animals which did not survive, including two calves, five goats, two birds, two sheep, seven rabbits, one pig and a number of cats.
"We lost about 6,000 bales (of hay) and that will be essential to continuing," Brenner said on behalf of Miracle Mountain. "That's our most immediate need. Eventually, we'll have a plan for clean-up and rebuilding and that will be on our website in the coming weeks."
According to Brenner, the incident has not halted camp activities.
"Camp continued on. The kids are having a ball," Brenner said. "We're especially grateful to God. We acknowledge Him and his protection. No one was hurt."
Brenner noted the community has already begun donating hay to the ranch.
"We're building a storage place for that," he said. "We can see a clear path forward and we'll be able to move on and continue this ministry. The outpouring of help from the community has been a great blessing. We're very grateful to the community for their prayers and support."
A statement on the ranch's website claims the juvenile in custody has confessed to the incident. The Erie-based state police sergeant in charge of the investigation was unable to be reached to confirm or deny that statement.
Brenner expressed gratitude towards the fire department, police, American Red Cross and fire marshal personnel throughout the incident.
Contributions to the ranch may be sent to the ranch office at 101 Rodeo Dr., Spring Creek, PA 16436 or online at www.mmrm.org. Those wishing to donate hay or equipment should contact the ranch at 814-664-7673.