January 07, 2019

Photo Essay: The Wreckage of Paramount Ranch's Western Town, Burnt to a Crisp

I knew Paramount Ranch's Western Town was gone after the Woolsey Fire of late 2018. I'd already seen photos of the wreckage.

But I wasn't prepared for what I would see when I made a site visit myself just after the New Year.

The bridge that leads to the old raceway track, beyond the model airplane field, was burned out, the trail coned off.

The entire line of trees along the creek that separates the parking lot from the Western Town was ravaged.

The paints and inks on the park signage had bubbled up from the heat, just like I'd seen along Angeles Crest Highway after the Station Fire.

Charred remains of wood posts glistened bright and shiny and almost blue.

The information board had partially melted from the heat, if not from direct contact with the flames.

Amidst the blackened landscape, it didn't smell smoky. It was nothing other than... crispy.

It felt raw and wounded, charcoaled and scarred.

And then the Western Town. I gasped.

It's fenced off for safety reasons but also, I assume, to prevent looting of any relics that might be found.

Another park visitor pointed out where his daughter had lived in some park housing, which explained the washer and dryer that seemed anachronistic among the bits and pieces of a saloon and general store.

I'd been to Paramount Ranch before, when it was in one piece, but I couldn't ascertain what used to be where.

All that survived was metal.

Sheets and sheets of corrugated steel covers the site like layers of emergency blankets at a crime scene.

Peeking out from below them are metal folding chairs, frames of folding tables, maybe metal shelves...

...barrels, cans, and jugs that look centuries old...

...and lighting fixture shades and other electrical equipment and vestiges from utilities.

It doesn't matter that the buildings weren't original to the Old West or the Gold Rush. It doesn't matter that they were just film and TV sets and not real ghost town relics. It is a horror show.

It was hard to discern what the path of the fire had been, because it hopped the creek—and even ran alongside of it—but it didn't crawl up the hillside. It spared the train depot, just steps away from the rest of the Western Town.

And the church still stands, without even a smudge of soot—certainly not saved by God, as it too was just a set piece and not a real consecrated house of worship.

Besides the buildings, lots of habitat was destroyed. But the birds were squawking, and the trails are open to pedestrians and equestrians alike.

The grass is growing back greener than ever.

And the stewards of the park vow to rebuild.

I think they should—just as Melody Ranch has been rebuilt after fire, more than once. It breaks my heart to see Corriganville reduced to a number of foundations and interpretive signs to explain what used to be there.

Inject some movie magic into Paramount Ranch. Let us pretend that our dreams and memories weren't destroyed, just this once.

Because Pioneertown may burn. Calico may become engulfed. Even Knott's Berry Farm could succumb.

A big enough earthquake could wipe it all out.

Accepting your own mortality is one thing. But living without the things you love feels like an even greater tragedy.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Paramount Ranch & Raceway (Updated for 2018)
Photo Essay: Things We Lost In the Woolsey Fire (Before & After Photos, Updated)
Corral Canyon, Malibu: Where the Fire Reached the Sea
Photo Essay: Melody Ranch Movie Ranch, Closed to Public (Except this Once)
Photo Essay: Corriganville Movie Ranch, Burned to the Ground

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