History of deplorable living conditions burns with Ridgewood Retirement Center

photo by Brandi Haskett

Around noon on Wednesday, Nov. 4, the last fire engine rolled away from burnt bricks, charred beams and ash, the only remnants of the once beautiful Ridgewood Retirement Center.

Tuesday, Nov 4, at 10:27 a.m., Beaumont Fire Rescue units responded to a fire reported at the vacant retirement community at 2520 Interstate 10 E. When firefighters arrived, they found heavy fire conditions in the lobby and dining area of the hotel.

The Ridgewood Retirement Center closed Oct. 31, 2013, after failing numerous city inspections that revealed lackluster accommodations for the facility’s occupants. The Examiner reported in May 2013 that during inspections by the city’s health department, officials found the kitchen, pool and other amenities to be completely unsanitary and unsafe, prompting a letter to then owner Samuel Pinter of New York that addressed the infractions. According to health inspectors, Ridgewood had a kitchen that was “in very bad condition and very dirty. Coolers and refrigerators were not working properly and mold was found on the food left inside these coolers.”

Firefighters knew there was extensive interior damage to the building when they arrived Tuesday because of a previous fire in April and, due to the heavy fire conditions, made a defensive fire attack. A second alarm was also called to bring additional equipment and manpower to the scene.

During the course of the fire, several off-duty firefighters were called in to assist at the fire and also to man reserve engines providing fire protection to the rest of the city.

More than 100 firefighters and personnel, both on and off-duty, accompanied seven engines, two fire cars and at least two ladder trucks, bringing the blaze under control at about 6 p.m. — after battling the flames for more than seven hours. Fire crews remained on the scene throughout the night, and the final hot spots were extinguished Wednesday morning.

Beaumont police officers assisted with traffic control in the area and the Interstate 10 westbound service road was closed to all traffic except emergency vehicles. EMS was also on the scene to monitor firefighters’ health conditions.

First responders on the scene pulled one male transient from the entrance area. He was treated by Beaumont EMS on scene and released after being questioned by investigators. He is not a suspect at this time.

According to a press release from the city, the building had fallen further into disrepair after it closed in October 2013.