At one o’clock in the afternoon, Hans Anderson, faithful employee of the Bartlett Springs forty years, discovered a fire in the bottling plant. The conflagration soon spread to the nearby buildings. Strong winds, blowing up from the steep canyons below, drove the flames from building to building in minutes. The four large hotels were quickly engaged in the inferno. The handful of guests and workers at the resort could not hope to combat such a fire. In less than three hours, more than fifty buildings, from the four large hotels to the smallest open-air cabin and tool house, were no more than smoldering embers and ashes.
When the fire was first discovered, Hans Anderson tried desperately to save the Boiler Room. That Boiler Room, the energy center, was an important center for the resort but it was doomed. At the last, Hans tried to save the valuable engine equipment. Fighting the fire like a demon, Hans sent a stream of water on the burning flames next to the Boiler Room to keep the fire away from the building. It was for naught. Too long he had waited and finally, overcome with exhaustion, he was forced to stagger from the burning building.
His wife, Mrs. Anderson, who had tried her best to help her husband, was badly burned on both arms. The eight guests, who jumped in to help, used the water from the large wooden reserve water tanks that had been placed on the mountainside. Nothing stopped the fury. All fell before the onslaught of the firestorm.
That wasn’t the end of the catastrophe. The mountains caught fire. Flames raced skyward up the sides of the hills and steep ridges. It was unstoppable and out of control. The eight guests and the three employees, including Hans Anderson and his wife, stood by helplessly as they waited for assistance from the CCC camp.
Help came; from Hough Springs, from Gravelly, from Lakeport, and from Middle Creek. Just after two o’clock, the first of the CCC workers got to the resort to find the ruins of what had been the large Main hotel. That structure, called The Bartlett, contained twenty-five rooms. The Calvin, next door, had forty rooms, and the Edward had twenty-eight rooms.
Everything, including the furnishings, was burned beyond recognition. Strewn over the area of the burning, the plumbing, and the electrical wiring were unrecognizable masses of twisted metal. Lost to the fires, the CCC firemen left the burned-out resort buildings to fight the new fires that had started in the hills and on the mountain.
By some strange quirk of circumstance, The Round House, covering the mineral Springs, remained untouched. That same protecting cloak of chance also included The Fire House, containing the firefighting equipment.
More than a hundred forty men of the Forestry service and the CCC camps fought the fire. They continued to battle the brush fires and burning timber on the mountain during all that afternoon and all that night. A temporary camp was set up. Other volunteers rushed to the scene to aid the weary firemen with food. Hot coffee, sandwiches, and fruit were distributed.
For all the damage, only one person suffered a serious wound. A boy from Middle creek was cut by an ax. There were plenty of minor burns and injuries from the fires, and these were treated from first aid kits on the spot.
Bartlett Springs had its years of glory. Like so many resorts in Lake County that have burned in part or completely since 1880: Highland, Harbin, Pearson, Seigler, Saratoga, Anderson Springs. The greatest of them, Bartlett Springs, was gone forever.
Next episode; The Star Gazer
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