Red River Ranch manager Jackie Martin was in shock when he pulled up to the ranch house around 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning.
A wedding party had been celebrating at the venue the night before, but by 4 a.m. the building was almost entirely demolished by a fire. “I couldn’t believe it because last time I saw it everything was just fine,” Martin said.
Falconhead Volunteer Fire Department Chief Roy Jones said the roof of the ranch house was already to the ground by the time firefighters arrived on scene. “It had been burning all night,” he said.
A man had reportedly spotted the fire from across State Highway 96 while on his way to work and called it in around 4:20 a.m.
“We believe it was an electrical fire,” Jones said. “The fire appeared to have started in the kitchen area and they had been having problems with breakers that night.”
The 50-year-old building was reportedly vacant at the time of the fire and all that was left standing was the chimney.
“It was a total loss,” Martin said, adding that he had not been notified when the building caught fire. “If I could have been there, we could have gotten a Fire Marshall requested and stuff. It’s just really been messed up.”
Martin said he had been booking the ranch house out for weddings for the past 15 years and had the venue booked every weekend for the next six months — making the fire both an emotional and a financial blow for the ranch. “We’re trying to regroup and let it soak in to figure out what we’re going to do,” he said.
As a community staple, much more was lost than just the building itself.
Martin’s daughter, Stormy Ramon, has been working on the ranch for the last six years, alongside her sister, Autumn Allen, who began working 11 years ago.
“We’re there everyday so it’s pretty much like a second home, it’s just what we’ve always done,” Ramon said.
Over the years, Ramon has seen her sister, several friends and her father and mother celebrate their weddings at the ranch house. “Just a lot of people. It’s just crazy. They’re just saddened by it,” she said.
Thousands of memories have been shared at the Red River Ranch House and several priceless decorations formally covered the venue’s walls.
“You never realize how much — there were so many old decorations and stuff in there,” Martin said. “Things you can’t replace, things that have been there so long you don’t think about it.”
The community has responded by offering to help clean up the rubble and by reaching out to let the family know that they’re in their thoughts, Ramon said.
“It’s real emotional right now for even the people in the community, everybody has been coming by and saying ‘I just can’t believe it because of all the memories I had’,” Martin said. “It’s been there 50 years, it’s just part of the community.”
The equestrian facilities and cabins were unaffected by the fire and will remain open for booking. However, the ranch house was the main event venue for weddings, Martin said.
Plans are in the works to rebuild the ranch house, however, the fire was such a surprise for the family that it may take some time.
“We will (rebuild), it’s just right now you never think about replacing that type of a building,” Martin said. “But we’re trying to figure out what to do next. We’ll rebuild it somehow and it’ll maybe be better than what it was before, we just don’t know. It’s still such a shock.”
Ramon said she personally sees this as an opportunity to revamp the ranch house and create something bigger and better than before.
“The ranch house was built a long time ago and it could’ve used some up-to-date stuff. This is going to be a way to bring in the new,” Ramon said. “I mean it’s sad, but I can’t wait to see what they’re going to do next.”