Police probing Rodeway fire


By Jim Poole

State and local authorities are investigating what’s been called a suspicious fire at the Inn of Cobleskill.
The December 23 fire at the former Rodeway Inn came about three weeks after the Village of Cobleskill closed the inn for numerous code violations.
A Cobleskill police officer on routine patrol saw smoke in the motel the night of the 23rd and called the fire department, according to Police Chief Rich Bialkowski.
The blaze apparently started in a records and storage area in the motel basement, Chief Bialkowski said, adding that “all accidental causes have been ruled out.”
Noting the coincidence in the short time between the closing and then the fire, Chief Bialkowski said, “All facets are being considered in relation to the current situation” of the motel.
Officials called in the Department of Homeland Security––formerly the State Office of Fire Prevention and Control––to investigate.
“When there’s any doubt, it’s better have the service that does this every day,” said Schoharie County Fire Coordinator Matt Brisley.
A Homeland Security spokesman said only that the “investigation is ongoing” and questions should be directed to Cobleskill Police.
Although firefighters stopped the blaze, damage was fairly extensive, according to Cobleskill Police Lieutenant Jeff Brown, who toured the inn with an insurance investigator last week.
“There was fire damage in the basement, but smoke damage through the entire hotel,” Lieutenant Brown said. “And the floor of ballroom had peeled up from the heat underneath it.”
Chief Bialkowski said samples from the damage were sent to the State Police lab, and police are waiting for test results.
At the same time, Lieutenant Brown added, police are interviewing anyone who had access to the motel.
Village officials closed the inn in late November because of deficiencies in fire protection, carbon monoxide detectors and other safety measures.
Those problems had to be remedied before the motel could reopen, Village Codes Officer Mike Piccolo said at the time.
Now, the fire damage must be repaired, too.
A phone call to Pat Patel, who said he took over managing the hotel recently, was not returned.
Mr. Patel said after the closing that he hoped to have the motel reopened in January.