Fire burns hitoric log cabin |

Fire burns hitoric log cabin

Greg Crofton

A historic two-story log cabin burned to the ground early Monday on U.S. Forest Service land behind the Crescent V Shopping Center.

The burning cabin produced enough radiant heat to ignite the side and roof of a wooden garage that was built along with the cabin. It appeared to have survived the fire.

Fire engines from every local agency squirmed their trucks up a gated dirt road to fight the blaze after the call came at 1:39 a.m. A crew from the Forest Service dug a fire line around the cabin, and dealt with spot fires and smoking wood embers.

Dave Cotter, a special agent for the Forest Service, believes someone started the fire.

“It’s definitely human-caused, whether it was intentional or accidental, we’ve yet to determine that,” he said. “Historically it’s a place for juvenile drinking and transients. There is evidence that both have been taking place here this year.”

The log cabin that burned was once part of a summer camp for girls founded by Mable Winter Whitney and a friend in the 1920s. In the winters, they would teach school in San Jose.

The camp, which had an emphasis on crafts and horseback riding, operated for nearly 30 years. When the camp shut down, family members began using the area as a summer home.

At some point along the way, children accidentally burned down the building that acted as the main lodge of the camp. Whitney has said children who did it wanted to make a ski slope and only meant to burn trees.

Eleven years ago, ownership of the land switched from the Whitney family to the Forest Service. Since then, it’s been boarded up and in disrepair.

“I think it’s tragic it happened but since the place has not been in use for 10 years it comes as nothing of a surprise,” said John Whitney, who lives at Zephyr Cove and is the stepson of Mable Whitney. “It’s been a frequent victim of break-ins and people staying there. Frankly, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner.”

Whitney said before his mother died in 1984 she would visit the land.

“She was not overly protective of it,” he said. “Her primary concern was that the property never fall into the hands of developers. If she were alive, she’d be devastated by this news, but not surprised. She figured it wouldn’t be too long before the place burned down. Every time she got there she was grateful to see that it was still standing.”

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