13 December 2009

La Vida Mineral Springs History: Destruction of the Hotel

On 4 December 1988, a rapidly-moving fire at the remote La Vida Mineral Springs hotel destroyed the 1930s structure. According to an article by Mark Landsbaum and Jean Davidson in the Los Angeles Times, the blaze caused well over $1 million in damage and sent a half-dozen guests and as many staff, including owner Leo Hayashi and family, living in the structure fleeing with towels, sheets and blankets and forced to leave their clothes and other possessions behind. The cause was not then known, although Hayashi guessed that an appliance motor may have initiated the fire.

With Brea Fire Department Battalion Chief Joel Shennum stating that nearly all of the interior of the structure was involved and that flames shot through the roof, the buildings was uninhabitable. Firefighting for the twelve responding engine companies were not only hampered by the isolation of the site, but by the narrow one-lane access bridge from Carbon Canyon Road and the heavy timber used for supporting the building. In fact, while smaller vehicles could cross the bridge, larger vehicles had to park on the highway and used extension hoses to reach the hotel some 100 yards (a football field length) away.

As to the future of the site, despite Hayashi's comment that "we will try to do the best we can, as quickly as possible," when asked whether he would repair or rebuild the hotel, its demise was assured. Not only was the fire devastating, but there is probably every reason to believe that the recession that began with the 1987 stock market crash and which persisted well into the 1990s put any thought to the redevelopment of the building and the resort generally to rest. The final blow would come thirteen years later, which is a story to be told next month.


David said...

I always thought it was a fire in the canyon burning that building. but just an appliance motor? I guess Mr.Hayashi didnt have good fire insurance....that sucks.
Thanks for writing these articles!

Paul said...

Hello David,
Actually, considering how many fires scorched the canyon from the 1930s until 1988, it's amazing the hotel wasn't taken out. The appliance motor was the owner's guess--I am not sure what the actual cause was. Thanks for your comment!