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Fire destroys Kennedy Meadows lodge

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Fire destroys Kennedy Meadows lodge

Postby ERIC » Tue Oct 02, 2007 1:47 pm

Historic California lodge reduced to ashes
A fast-moving blaze sweeps through Kennedy Meadows Resort in the High Sierra north of Yosemite. The owner vows to rebuild.

By Eric Bailey, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
October 2, 2007


SACRAMENTO -- It stood for most of a century in the High Sierra north of Yosemite National Park as a rare vestige of the Old West -- a rustic lodge where visitors could spend the night, eat a hearty meal and pack into the rugged wilderness on a mule train.

Early Monday, a fire reduced Kennedy Meadows Resort and Pack Station to smoldering debris.

Image
Kennedy Meadows Lodge before the fire.

By the time firefighters extinguished the fast-moving blaze, the resort's historic main lodge had been burned to the ground along with adjacent guest cabins and several other structures.

Authorities said the fire appeared to have broken out shortly after midnight in a chimney flue for the pot-bellied stove inside the main structure. The two-story lodge was built in 1917 at a forest-ringed meadow along California Highway 108, about 60 miles northeast of Sonora near the road's Sierra crest at Sonora Pass.

Employees housed in the main lodge awakened to smoke and managed to flee the flames and then alert guests in the resort's 20 cabins. All managed to escape unharmed.

Matt Bloom, owner of the resort for the last decade, worked hard with some employees to try to knock down the fire.

Meanwhile, others raced down the highway to call fire officials from the nearest working phone -- in the tiny hamlet of Dardanelle, seven miles away. Kennedy Meadows has no cellphone coverage, and the land lines on the property had been swallowed up quickly by the flames.

Julie Chaffee, who works at the resort, said Bloom and the others pumped water onto the blaze until flames consumed the structure that housed three diesel generators. The generators supplied the resort's electricity. Without power, the pumps stopped working.

Crews from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection arrived soon after they got the call and tried their best in the bone-dry terrain, parched after last winter's drought and a long summer, Chaffee said.

But the old lodge -- the resort's centerpiece -- was leveled by the flames, along with the store and restaurant, where workers would clang an old triangle to call folks to breakfast.

"It's down to the ground," Chaffee said sadly. "Gone, gone, gone, gone."

The blaze claimed seven of the resort's cabins but skirted the rustic building that houses the Last Chance Saloon. Built during the 1880s, the old watering hole features stiff drinks, a tiny wood dance floor and an ancient jukebox with no music newer than Hank Williams songs from the 1940s.

Flames also spared a barn that during summer months houses a stable of pack animals and provides shelter for horses hauled in by visitors.

The lodge was due to close for the winter next week.

Fire investigators were focusing on the stove flue as the likely cause but also were looking into the possibility of arson.

In recent years, the resort and its horse and pack operations had become the focus of ire for some environmentalists. A few local residents raised the possibility that the fire might have been caused by some eco-saboteur in a bid to push the pack station out of business.

Locals said the resort long has defied the years to stand as a throwback to a different era, when the Sierra was a less commercial tourist destination.

For generations, wranglers from the lodge have taken visitors on pack rides into the Emigrant Wilderness. At Kennedy Meadows, visitors have eaten bacon-and-egg breakfasts and Sunday prime rib dinners and enjoyed homey accommodations that didn't tax the wallet.

Cabins start at $64 a night. The most expensive is $150 and sleeps 12.

Sportsmen used the resort as a jumping-off spot for trips into the high country to hunt or fish. The old saloon filled up Friday and Saturday nights.

"It's just a total step back in time," said Nanci Sikes of the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau. "This resort is very special to all of us, and we're hopeful something can be done to resurrect that old lodge."

Within hours of the fire, the resort's owner told employees that he planned to rebuild all the destroyed structures, including the lodge, Chaffee said.

"He loves this place, just absolutely loves it," she said. "It's wonderful, and it will be wonderful again."

eric.bailey@latimes.com
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ERIC
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Postby mountaineer » Tue Oct 02, 2007 3:36 pm

That absolutely sucks!
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Postby Ranboze » Tue Oct 02, 2007 5:11 pm

That is really sad.
Walking outside is where I find what's inside.
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Postby mountaineer » Tue Oct 02, 2007 6:04 pm

DELETED BY ADMIN
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Postby rightstar76 » Wed Oct 03, 2007 10:53 am

I feel sad for all the employees who may not have jobs next year. I also feel sad because I'm sure the prices to stay there will double. It may even become another Sequoia High Sierra Camp (hope not). More and more these lodges are burning down. This reminds me of the Wilderness Lodge at Royal Gorge that burned down in 2004. They need to fire proof these places.
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Postby frediver » Wed Oct 03, 2007 12:23 pm

I have cleaned many chimney's over the year's and a chimney fire is nothing to fool with. Once started the longer they burn the hotter they get,
2000F*+. They can melt chimney pipe, I've seen it happen. In an area like K.Meadows where a stove would be used a lot it would likely need cleaning once or even twice per season.
It's a sad day when anything like this happens, nothing will ever replace
the Kennedy Meadows Lodge.
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Postby Kerstin » Tue Oct 09, 2007 12:42 pm

Very sad. Makes me think of Glacier Lodge. That was a neat place too.
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Postby frediver » Tue Oct 09, 2007 1:38 pm

It has been suggested by locals that it is sure funny how business burn down in the area. Check the history of other old time sierra lodges??
Suspicious is the word used!
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Postby Hikin Mike » Tue Oct 09, 2007 2:40 pm

What a shame. I've been there a few times and ate there once. :crybaby:
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Postby SSSdave » Wed Oct 10, 2007 11:18 pm

Very sad very sad. Will certainly be a painful period for many of the employees who are likely all fine mountain folk. I hope they receive good support from others in their mountain community. Good to read that the owner has the resources and intent to rebuild. ...David
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