The fire that destroyed the historic Big Oaks Lodge on Bouquet Canyon Road in Saugus Aug. 11-12 was an accident, Sgt. John Hanson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Arson & Explosives squad said Friday morning.
“There’s no indication that fire was anything other than an accident,” Hanson said.
Investigators made the determination based on “the fire patterns, the description of the flames and the progression as well as the evidence,” Hanson said.
No evidence of accelerants was found, he said.
“There’s nothing suspicious about that fire,” Hanson said.
He said it was a “witnessed fire — the building’s owner and a passerby were there.”
As to earlier reports the fire may have started in the kitchen, “It appears to have started in the area of the women’s restroom,” Hanson said.
“The women’s restroom is in very close proximity to the kitchen, but based on statements from everyone involved there was no indication that it was a kitchen fire,” he said.
The fire’s exact cause remains under investigation.
“At this point, we’re just investigating it as an accidental fire,” he said, adding that a final report is due from the Sheriff’s Department in about a week.
“We just want to speak to a couple more people who were patrons toward the closing around 9:30-10 o’clock, get some statements from them and then we’ll be able to close it out,” Hanson said.
“Once we issue the report there will be a couple things in there that we are unable to eliminate as the possible cause of the fire,” he said.
The future of the Big Oaks Lodge property remains unknown. The lodge, on federal land in the Angeles National Forest, was operated via a special use permit. Over the years, businesses and cabin owners have owned only the structures, furniture and fixtures, not the land.
ANF officials said Monday it’s “unlikely” the lodge could be rebuilt in the same location because it wouldn’t meet current fire safety standards.
The lodge’s history goes back at least to 1932, possibly earlier, when it was a country store and cabin resort that hosted Saturday night dances.
Read more history of the lodge [here].
See a photo gallery of Big Oaks Lodge interiors and exteriors from July 2012.
Read the previous fire coverage from SCVNews.com.
See a gallery of photos taken after the fire.