YUCAIPA (CBSLA) — Flames ripped through several wooden buildings early Friday morning in Oak Glen at the largest historic apple farm in Southern California, destroying the core of the cherished family attraction.
“And it burned so hot and so fast,” Emma Riley, the co-owner’s daughter, said. “All the buildings were burned down within about an hour and a half.”
Riley’s family owns Riley’s Farm, the business that runs Los Rios Rancho.
She said investigators were not yet certain whether the fire started in the kitchen or at a transformer outside of it, but the flames also incinerated the 114 year old barn store and the 84 year old apple packing barn, which was full of 1950s era equipment that has been used to pick, pack, juice and sell their apple products during the fall harvest for four generations.
“Ninety percent of what we use is antiques, which is what makes the operation kind of special,” Riley said. “There’s things that just cannot be replaced.”
Unfortunately, this is the second time in just as many weeks that the family has suffered a loss due to a fire. Two weeks ago, the Riley’s lost a home and several cabins nearby when the nearly 23,000-acre El Dorado Fire flared up.
“I told a firefighter today I’ve gone through two different pairs of shoes melting in fires just because of walking through so much burned ground,” Riley said.
The Riley’s lease the property from the Wildlands Conservancy, which owns the Oak Glen Preserve and the buildings that burned down. The nonprofit saved the ranch from being turned into a residential subdivision 24 years ago.
Now, they might need the community’s help to bring it back to life.
“They want to get in there and work on rebuilding immediately,” Riley said.
The trees at the orchard were untouched by the fire, so families can still go apple picking. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the business recover from the fire.