Saturday evening my mother Assemblymember Brown called to invite me to join a delegation of her colleagues at a briefing on the Blue Cut Fire, a wildfire that scorched 37,020 acres in West Cajon Valley destroying 105 homes and 216 outbuildings, and leaving tens of thousands of residents displaced for days. She had already been on the ground at the assistance center talking to residents affected by the disaster and meeting the first responders who bravely fought to save as many communities and lives as they could. And she had also seen some of the major destruction as well. “We lost The Summit,” she said. The landmark Route 66’s Summit Inn Restaurant, located at the crest of the 15 Freeway, was completely destroyed.
While I didn’t tour with the group the next morning, I did spend the afternoon with photographer Benoit Malphettes documenting the destruction and talking to the fire and safety crews who were still on the ground. We photographed what was left of homes as well as the charred landscape on Highway 138 before making our way to the town of Wrightwood whose entire population of 5,000 had been evacuated and allowed to return to their homes just the day before. Located east of that mountain town is Lone Pine Canyon bordered by the Blue Ridge running along the San Andreas Fault. At the time of our visit spots of trees on the ridge were still smoldering and the air was full of wind-whipped ash. A fire crewmember warned us to be careful as we drove along Lone Pine Canyon Road. “This is an historic area,” she told me as she pointed to a small red house in the middle of the canyon, “you should get some pictures of that.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was pointing to one of the oldest homesteads in San Bernardino County, and the remnants of one of our region’s oldest buildings.
Clyde Ranch, originally a 160-acre cattle ranch, was purchased by the Clyde family from one of the county’s early Mormon settlers in 1862. They built a small cabin on the site to house their large family of eleven. Over the years they played host to the Earp brothers, including Wyatt, who was known to be a frequent visitor to the ranch with his brother Virgil. Almost half a century later the family planted 70 acres of apple trees that became a popular and profitable orchard, and built a little red house closer to the road and a gas station for motorists. Over the years the cabin expanded, with the addition of bedrooms, a kitchen, and living room, eventually it became known as the Earp Cabin, in honor of the Clyde family’s famous guests. The red house and gas station are still standing, but after the Blue Cut Fire last week, only the chimney of the cabin remains.
Unfortunately some things cannot be replaced, with the loss of the Summit Inn Restaurant and the Earp Cabin at the Clyde Ranch, important bits of our past are lost forever.
With an initial contribution of $100,000 from The Community Foundation the Inland Empire United Way has established a Fire Relief Fund to collect financial donations to help residents directly impacted by the Blue Cut Fire. Donations can be made online at www.IEUW.org/help, by texting RELIEF to 40403, or by check made payable to Inland Empire United Way sent to: IEUW Fire Fund, 9644 Hermosa Avenue, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730.