BARNETT TWP., Pa. (EYT) – It’s business as usual at the Hominy Ridge Lodge in Cook Forest following the devastating fire that swept through the business last month. Rental cabins are clean and ready for guests.
(PHOTO ABOVE: Hominy Ridge Lodge – taken on Friday, February 28.)
The business remains open despite a fire that destroyed a building that housed the lodge, a store, and the owner’s home in late February.
Owner Paula Pluta was busy preparing to wash newly purchased sheets for the beds in the rental cabins when she recently talked to exploreClarion.com.
It’s not just supplies for the business that the family was replacing. They lost all of their belongings in the fire.
Paula said the fire marshal has listed the cause of the fire as undetermined.
Luckily the family, including four cats, escaped without injury.
“Eventually, we’re going to be living out of our camper for the summer,” Paula said – while joking that it’s a good thing they like camping.
Currently, the family lives in unrented cabins on site. They have been moving their belongings into whichever cabin is unoccupied at the moment.
Paula’s husband, Andy Pluta, said the family needed to stay on the property despite offers of housing from friends.
“This is my income, this is what I do for a living, so I gotta keep it going,” Andy said. “I need to stay on the property.”
On Thursday, February 27, around 7:00 p.m., Paula explained that the family was in the residential portion of the lodge building when they heard a ruckus outside. Their daughter, Marissa, opened the door and said it looked like there was a campfire near one of the cabins and maybe a fight.
When they decided to take a closer look, they opened the door again and smoke started rolling into the home. A person staying in one of the cabins came running toward them, yelling that the lodge was on fire.
They got out with just the clothes on their back.
“We ran to the front of the building,” Paula said. “We wanted to see if there was anything we could do, but there wasn’t. So, we ran back, grabbed our purses, not knowing how far along it was. Then we watched it burn to the ground.”
There was never any question about whether they would rebuild, although there are some decisions to be made about what the rebuilt structure will look like. Paula would rather not have her home attached to the store and lodge in the future.
“The insurance company is building us one building,” she explained. “We’re not sure about rebuilding the lodge and store, but if we don’t, you have to worry about the income loss on that. We’re not sure what we’re doing with that just yet.”
The family hopes they’ll be able to move into their new home by the end of the summer.
Despite the loss, they are still open for business.
“All of the cabins are still open,” Paula said. “We don’t have a front desk, so we have to meet with guests to give them their keys.”
The phone lines for the business are working and are being forwarded to the Pluta’s cell phones. Guests can call before arriving to arrange to meet with Paula or Andy to get their keys.
Paula said the community has helped out. Donations of clothing and cleaning supplies came pouring in after the fire.
The family continues to work with the insurance company to rebuild both their home and their business. They’ve been cataloging their losses and trying their best to affix a value to what was lost.
A computer, printer, safe, and office supplies were on the list of items needed as they start from scratch.
“It’s not until you have to start from scratch that you understand just what that means,” Paula added.
“We’re still going one day at a time, and that’s how we have to do it. We can’t concentrate on what’s coming tomorrow because we can’t even think about what we’re doing today. It’s literally minute by minute.”
A Facebook Fundraiser is collecting donations for the family.