Fire-charred movie ranch to be re­built over 2 years

The Standard Journal - - ENTERTAINMENT - By An­drew Dal­ton

AGOURA HILLS, Calif. — Stand­ing amid the charred foun­da­tions and burned­out movie sets of Para­mount Ranch, of­fi­cials from the Na­tional Park Ser­vice said on Nov. 16 that they plan to re­build and re­open the site that holds decades of movie his­tory and still hosts a steady stream of Hol­ly­wood pro­duc­tions within the next two years.

Santa Mon­ica Moun­tains Na­tional Re­cre­ation Area Su­per­in­ten­dent David Szy­man­ski an­nounced the plan as he guided re­porters through the twisted metal and ashes that once made up the ranch’s “Western Town,” most of which burned shortly af­ter a huge wild­fire broke out Nov. 8 and swept through the sur­round­ing moun­tains and com­mu­nity, de­stroy­ing more than 700 homes and other build­ings.

“The site is al­most a to­tal loss,” Szy­man­ski said. “It’s easy to be somber. But there’s some things that I’m hop­ing will al­low us to be a lit­tle bit less somber. We’d like to get Para­mount Ranch re­built in the next 24 months.”

A church built for HBO’s “West­world” and a train de­pot con­structed for the 1990s CBS se­ries “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Wo­man,” the two pro­duc­tions most as­so­ci­ated with the site, are all that re­main of the struc­tures, backed by the black­ened hills of a wild­fire that many feared for years.

“We’ve all dreaded it, we’ve tried to pre­pare, but some­times the wind just takes over,” said Rory Skei, the chief deputy ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Santa Mon­ica Moun­tains Con­ser­vancy. “We do what we can do.”

Else­where on the fire, more res­i­dents were al­lowed in past weeks to re­turn to homes they fled from days ear­lier.

Au­thor­i­ties re­opened more ar­eas in Los An­ge­les and Ven­tura coun­ties. But they kept some lo­ca­tions within the Woolsey Fire zone of­flim­its be­cause of haz­ards rang­ing from burned power poles to com­pro­mised gas lines and de­stroyed road­ways.

Util­ity crews worked to re­move dam­aged equip­ment and bring in re­place­ments, in­clud­ing nu­mer­ous power poles.

Al­though walls of flame and tow­er­ing columns of smoke were gone, fire­fight­ers con­tinue to ex­pand con­tain­ment lines around the scorched area. Fire com­man­ders said the 153-square-mile burn area was 78 per­cent sur­rounded.

The count of de­stroyed struc­tures reached 713. An­other 201 struc­tures were dam­aged.

Los An­ge­les County sher­iff’s de­tec­tives were in­ves­ti­gat­ing three deaths. Two adults were found in a gut­ted car last week, and the re­mains of a per­son were found Wed­nes­day in the rub­ble of a home that had burned to the ground.

At the Para­mount Ranch, struc­tures that served as barns, ho­tels, sa­loons and bar­ber­shops for decades of movies and TV shows are gone. Work­ers will sal­vage what they can and then work to re­build.

The site be­gan as a set for Para­mount Pic­tures in the 1920s and was taken over by the Na­tional Park Ser­vice in 1980. It got a ma­jor restora­tion in 1985, with the park ser­vice try­ing to main­tain as much as it could from the orig­i­nal build­ings. Cor­ru­gated tin roofs on many of them still dated to the 1920s. Now those roofs lie burned and twisted on the ground like pieces of a crashed plane.

Western Town specif­i­cally was built for TV pro­duc­tions in the 1950s and was used for such west­erns as “The Cisco Kid” and “Dick Pow­ell’s Zane Grey The­atre.”

But the site lent it­self to pro­duc­tions of all kinds.

“Amer­i­can Sniper,” the 2014 film star­ring Bradley Cooper, was also partly filmed there, as was 2006’s “The Lake House,” star­ring San­dra Bul­lock and Keanu Reeves.

“It could be adapted for any­thing,” Szy­man­ski said.

It re­mained to be seen how much the ranch be­ing out of com­mis­sion would af­fect Hol­ly­wood pro­duc­tions.

HBO did not im­me­di­ately an­swer ques­tions about whether the fire would af­fect the up­com­ing sea­son 3 of “West­world,” or whether pro­duc­tion was planned for the ranch at all. The net­work pre­vi­ously ex­pressed con­cern for “all those af­fected by these hor­ri­ble fires.”

/ AP-Marcio Jose Sanchez, File

Para­mount Ranch, a fron­tier western town built as a movie set that ap­peared in count­less movies and TV shows, was dec­i­mated by the Woolsey fire in Agoura Hills, Calif.

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