Nearby resident and former Los Rios employee Jake Miller saw the glow and immediately drove up to see where the fire was.
“I smelled smoke and saw the glow,” said Miller, who was saddened to see it was the Los Rios Rancho property.
“The Riley family has done a lot of great things for a lot of people and have made Oak Glen what it is today,” said Miller. “I don’t think any fire can diminish what they have done up in Oak Glen. I know they will build back.”
Yucaipa Fire Department, CAL FIRE, responded within minutes. At 2:20 a.m. the Yucaipa Fire Department started receiving 911 calls and engines responded along with a second alarm from CAL FIRE San Bernardino and CAL FIRE/ Riverside County Fire.
Yucaipa Fire Chief Grant Malinowski arrived to find multiple buildings already engulfed in fire on the Los Rios Rancho property, assumed the incident commander of the “Rios” incident and ordered a third and fourth alarm, along with five water tenders and a first alarm vegetation response.
“As a testament to the fantastic working relationships with our surrounding agencies we promptly had additional chief officers, 20 fire engines two ladder trucks, a breathing support, two handcrews and a bulldozer on scene to assist us in battling this blaze,” explained Malinowski.
Fire department resources from Redlands, San Bernardino County, Loma Linda, Running Springs and Rancho Cucamonga responded to assist and there was over 100 firefighters on scene at the height of the incident. The fire took several hours to contain with several engines overhauling and “mopping up” well into the next evening.
“I was so saddened at this loss to our community, we have had hundreds of fire engines in and out of that property over the last several weeks fighting the Apple and El Dorado Fire, they fed our firefighters and gave us a place to catch our breath,” said Malinowski.
Past Apple Growers Association President and former Oak Glen Citizen of the Year Devon Riley runs the property together with his family. Following the El Dorado Fire, it was an especially big blow.
“We are devastated with the loss of Los Rios’ historic buildings on the ranch,” said Riley. “The loss is emotionally draining, financially crippling, and historically tragic. That said, the outpouring of support and prayerful consideration of our family and this still beautiful place is overwhelming. We are very humbled. Amazingly only a couple of apple trees were burned - the apple is an amazing symbol of eternity and we trust that we will soon have an even better, more user-friendly place for people to call their home away from home. In the meantime, come get some apples and watch (and help) our progress.”
The Wildlands Conservancy
The Wildlands Conservancy Executive Director Frazier Haney said the fire was indeed, a shock to everyone.
“The Wildlands Conservancy acquired historic Los Rios Rancho in 1996 as part of the Oak Glen Preserve, and are shocked by the loss of the buildings at the heart of the operation where so many good memories have been made,” said Haney. “As the owner of Los Rios, we are committed to rebuilding in a way that honors the tradition of all the families that have enjoyed Oak Glen over the last century.”
History of Los Rios Rancho
Los Rios Rancho is currently the largest apple orchard in inland Southern California and for many, it is arguably one of the premiere destinations in Oak Glen, spanning over 300 acres. It began over 100 years ago, when in 1906, brothers Howard and Ernest Rivers purchased approximately 320 acres from the previous owners, the Wilshire family. The Rivers family embarked on a long and successful journey of apple growing.
For the next 70 years, Oak Glen and Los Rios Rancho continued to expand and prosper.
The Rivers family sold half of Los Rios Rancho to the Wildlands Conservancy in 1996 and then the other half in 2000. Since 2004, Devon and Shelli Riley have operated the more than 60 acres of orchards, pumpkins and berries along with all the business operations.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation by CAL FIRE San Bernardino Unit Law Enforcement and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Arson and Bomb.
Los Rios will remain open through mid-November. Miraculously, the apple trees remained unscathed in the fire. Directly across the street is the U-pick orchard. It will remain open throughout apple season and customers can purchase apples, cider and more.
Los Rios Rancho is located at 39611 Oak Glen Road.