Wildfire damages site of Hollywood Westerns

Blaze started by lightning

YUCCA VALLEY, Calif. (AP) – A wildfire burned several structures in a desert community where dozens of Hollywood Westerns were filmed and threatened other towns while prompting 1,000 people to flee.

Winds up to 20 mph fanned the fire across 6,000 acres, said Doug Lannon, a battalion chief for the California Department of Forestry. The fire originally had started as part of a series of lightning-sparked blazes. It was brought under control but erupted again.

The blaze burned through historic Pioneertown, and television news footage showed several structures burned to the ground. Lannon couldn’t immediately say what the structures were.

About 200 homes were threatened, said forestry Capt. Debbie Chapman.

About 600 firefighters aided by six helicopters and six air tankers were working the blaze, which prompted mandatory evacuations of Pioneertown, Rimrock, Gamma Gulch, Pipes Canyon, and Bowden Flats.

Pioneertown, about two hours east of Los Angeles, was host to Roy Rogers, Russ “Lucky” Hayden and other Hollywood cowboys who helped establish the desert hideaway in 1946. Movie crews nailed together a saloon, hauled up a railroad car and sank posts around the “OK Corral.”

Gene Autry filmed “Last of the Pony Riders” in Pioneertown. Hayden, of Hopalong Cassidy fame, used it for his “Judge Roy Bean” TV series, and “Cisco Kid” producers shot several movies and the TV series there.

By the 1960’s the town had become more of a residential community, although filmmakers began returning a few years ago. Car companies have filmed commercials in Pioneertown in recent years. Music videos also have been made there.

Carol Post, owner of Pioneertown’s Red Dog Saloon, said the fire surged within a block or two of her home in Yucca Valley before the wind shifted, pushing the flames north.

“It was really scary,” said Post, 70. “It was a wall of flame.” She said she rushed to Pioneertown to check on her bar but fire officials barred it.

July 12, 2006 Wildfire article clipping