Summit Inn At Cajon Proves A Total Loss In Blue Cut Fire

CAJON—The Summit Inn, the landmark at the top of the Cajon Pass established by Burt Riley in 1952 that until early this week remained as the High Desert’s most visible link connecting the Third Millennium back to the Twentieth Century and the heyday of Route 66, burned to the ground Tuesday, a total loss as a consequence of the 2016 Blue Cut Fire.
Both the restaurant and the eight room hotel behind it caught fire some time after 6 p.m. August 16. Both structures were fully engulfed in flames by 7:40 p.m.
The destructive fire came slightly more than a month-and-a-half after C.A. Stevens, who had owned the Summit Inn since 1966, sold it to the Recinos Family.
The 2016 Bluecut Fire, which raged along the I-15 corridor, as of press time this morning had consumed 37,200 acres at press time and was 26 percent contained, and at one point had forced the evacuation of an estimated 34,500 homes and 82,640 Victor Valley residents. It is a replay of the 2002 Blue Cut Fire, which lasted from June 16, 2002 to June 22, 2002.
The Chevron gas station next to the Summit Inn fared somewhat better than the nearby by structures.
Governor Jerry Brown issued a state of emergency at 8:30 p.m. on August 16 when the massive wildfire was at zero percent containment.
The destruction of the Summit Inn represents the loss of an iconic way station on Old Route 66.
C.A. Stevens, who was an independent operator of Standard/Chevron service stations, purchased the property upon which the Summit Inn is located, which included an existing filling station, from its original owner, Burt Riley, on October 13, 1966 for $335,000. The purchase included the restaurant and an adjacent eight-room motel.
Stevens’ initial interest in the property did not extend to the restaurant or hotel, but he took on both because the location of the gas station was a good one. He maintained the hotel and restaurant operations out of economic necessity.
From Riley, Stevens inherited as an employee Hilda Fish, the manager of the restaurant. Fish essentially operated the restaurant for Stevens for the next 37 years. Since Fish’s departure, two other employees, Joanie Blackburn and Michelle Ranck, both trained by Fish, took over responsibility for the operation.
Stevens simultaneously grew into something of a political figure. In the 1970s, he was appointed to the county’s local service district agency board, which was affiliated at that time with Phelan. From that position he oversaw functions relating to water provision to the rural area in the area just north of the summit. To some extent, Steven’s was responsible for separating the area east of the 15 Freeway from the property west of the freeway and designating it as Oak Hills, which was given its own zip code – 92344. There was a time when that area was looking to maintain its own identity and there was small talk about Oak Hills incorporating as a city. It has since been subsumed by Hesperia.
Stevens has also been a steady contributor to politicians’ political funds over the years.
The board members sent out a questionnaire to residents asking for suggestions and received dozens of responses.
Stevens closed the motel more than two decades ago. The restaurant, however, found a niche, and was known for featuring ostrich burgers. When Denny’s in 1994 tendered an offer for the restaurant, Stevens resisted and the landmark has remained as one untainted by national corporate affiliation, except, of course, for the Chevron gas station.
Stevens, now 84, sold the restaurant, the long-shuttered motel, a business office and the Summit Station Antique Shop at an approximate price of $1 million to Otto Recinos. Recinos, with his mother, Annabella Recinos and his sister, Katherine Juarez operates the Grand Pines Cabins in Wrightwood. The Recinos Family intended to reopen the motel and keep the museum and restaurant in place, continuing to employ the current staff of waitresses and cooks. The restaurant was to be augmented with an outdoor barbecue grill, featuring ribs.
Recinos, who was scheduled to meet with his insurance adjuster today, said he was contemplating rebuilding the Summit Inn from scratch.

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