The Friday, Dec. 27, fire at the landmark White Horse Inn in Three Rivers started in the room on the west side of the structure that housed the water heater. Officially, the cause is “undetermined.”
Captain Kevin Riggi, lead investigator for the Tulare County Fire Department, said that he could tell where the fire started but there was no definitive cause as to why a spark from the water heater or electrical outlets in the room would have suddenly overheated or ignited.
“There were several workers in the building that day [Thursday, Dec. 26] cutting steaks and getting ready for the City of Woodlake dinner to be held there Friday night,” Captain Riggi said. “The pilot in the water heater, which was not in use recently, was lit that day.”
Riggi said the water heater was “electrical and propane” and there were extension cords in the vicinity. The pre-incident value of the structure and contents for the restaurant was listed in Riggi’s report at $1,008,240.
The estimated loss was $500,000 to the structure and an additional $200,000 to the contents. An independent investigation is being conducted by the insurance company.
Jeanne White, who with her husband, Gary, owns and operates the White Horse Inn, said that the restaurant portion of the property will probably be demolished and rebuilt. The River Terrace, and its outdoor facilities, was not damaged.