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The Fire of January 30th 1970

On Friday January 30th, 1970 at around 2:07 p.m. in the afternoon, a fire broke out reportedly at the Yuma Hotel on Western Street 'A'. On this extremely clear sky day, winds somehow were heavy and the fire quickly spread to adjacent structures and set them a blaze causing an inferno in a matter of minutes. Aiding the fire was the fact that this was Western Street, comprised of nothing but wood structures which had been around since the inception of the Ranch back in 1935, and no sprinkler system in any of the buildings (as was not required at the time), thus very dry old timber.

 

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A Studio employee aids a Fire Fighter to pull a hose.

At the time of the fire, 3 productions were shooting at the Ranch, including "Here Come the Brides'. Several items for this show, props such as artificial rocks and trees and almost their entire Wardrobe facility were lost in the fire. Reports state that several Cast and Crew members of the show helped fight the fire, including Joan Blondell, Bobby Sherman, David Soul, Bridget Hanley, Mark Leonard and Robert Brown.

 

A Fire fighter, Bobby Sherman (In foreground) and a camera man, along with others, assessing the fire raging through the European set.

The Wardrobe facility for 'Here Come the Brides' as it was after the fire.

All in all, it took the entire Burbank Fire Dept, with 7 Engines to battle the blaze, "along with two truck companies, a service rescue unit and five chiefs cars" , according to a newspaper article, along with the aid of another 8 units from the Los Angeles City Fire Dept. The Glendale Fire Dept. responded with 2 more units for standby at the Burbank Station.

Although the fire was contained by the fire department in about 50 minutes, it destroyed 1/3 of the Ranch. Sets lost were the Western Street 'A' and 'B', Stage 32, which was behind the Western Street 'A' facades, the south side of the European/Colonial set & Church and the Blondie house. It also destroyed several studio trailers and storage facilities. The fire was estimated to be about $2.000.000 worth in damages and in total 17 sets were lost.

 

The smoke was visible for miles and the burned timbers and ashes smoldered for hours after the fire was put out. 

Studio employees and officials assessing the damage.

Fire fighters trying to access the burning sets from Pass Ave.

What remained of the original 'Blondie' house after the fire on Jan. 30th 1970. The structure would be torn down and rebuild with some modifications to the back.

A rare aerial view of the massive fire damage to the Ranch as seen the day after the fire. Highlighted in red is the extend of the fire looking from West to East.

 

The catastrophic fire changed the feel of the Ranch, mainly the Western Street sets and European sets. Even Though Western 'A' and 'B' Streets were rebuild according the the original Blueprints, some aspects were changed and it was said by many whom worked on the Ranch that it just did not have the same 'feel' as before. Gone was the authentic feel of Gene Autry or Gary Cooper strutting down the sandy paths, or Marlon Brando riding his motorcycle through the street. 

Another photo showing the extensive damage the fire caused to the Ranch.

Since several productions were still being filmed at the time of the fire, including the last few episodes of The Flying Nun and the first season of The Partridge Family (Remember the pilot episode of the PF, Shirley lived in the Blondie house and then in the next episode to what we now know as the Partridge House), Columbia quickly rebuild the damaged and demolished sets and by the end of that February almost all were back in production until the next fire took place.

Blueprints for the newly redesigned European street showing the lowered rooflines of the new structures.

A semi comparison of the new facades on Western Street 'A'. Despite being rebuild according to original blueprints, it was more generic.

Changes were also made to the European sets and the Church. The once towering Facades behind the Blondie street houses were now 'downsized' to be less obstructive from the street's view. No longer was there an 'air' of old English or Colonial or European look but a more modern, mid century, generic look.