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Blaze devastates historic Tuolumne County resort

KENNEDY MEADOWS -- Flames, aided by whipping winds, destroyed the main lodge and some cabins at historic Kennedy Meadows Resort in eastern Tuolumne County early Monday.

The blaze began in the lodge, which housed the restaurant and grocery store, and quickly spread to seven of the 20 cabins, said Ron Fink, a county fire captain stationed in Pinecrest. The fire also destroyed the buildings housing generators.

Six people were evacuated from the lodge and no one was injured, though a dog was killed.

"Nobody knew it was burning till they heard the explosion," Fink said, referring to what likely was the sound of a window blowing out in the heat.

The lodge was built in 1941 after its predecessor burned to the ground. Kennedy Meadows has been a top recreation spot since the World War I era, when the first pack station, store and gas station were built there.

The fire was reported at 1:10 a.m. It took Fink's crew 45 minutes to reach the resort, which is 57 miles east of Sonora and 27 miles east of Pinecrest on Highway 108.

"When I got there, the restaurant was gone, the store was gone and seven of the cabins," Fink said.

Resort owner Matt Bloom quickly cut down trees to stop the fire from destroying other cabins. Wind from an approaching storm also caused problems.

Bloom keeps an old fire engine filled with 500 gallons of water on hand, but it only slowed the blaze, Fink said.

The cause of the fire, believed to have been accidental, remains under investigation, Fink said. A California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection official said it might have started in a flue in the attic.

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