By Jason KUROSU
The sights off the Angeles Forest Highway still catch the breath of passing motorists, even if the Station Fire of last year has rendered some of the scenery lifeless and barren. The vastness of it alone keeps the forest a panoramic marvel, but one cannot help but think of what it was before the fire.
Barbara Webb knows the forest well, her father having bought property there in 1947, property that eventually became the Singing Springs Movie Ranch. The ranch, being so integrated into the natural surroundings, was also swallowed up by the fire. Webb’s Singing Springs website reads, “Post apocalyptic, war zone, eerie, ash-covered mountainsides and charred forest with green growth. Burned down cabins, strewn with burned remnants.” Indeed, the kinds of movies filmed there are most often of the post-apocalyptic variety. The atmosphere is just right, with the burnt remains of Webb’s cabin, her sister’s cabin, a pump house, and several other former buildings relegated to smoldered ruins.
The interest shown by filmmakers has been encouraging, if only as a sole bright spot in what has been a troubling year. A reconstruction effort would be much preferred, but with the property uninsured, the costs are just too high. But what troubles Webb the most is that the destruction of Singing Springs was not prevented in the first place.
Firefighters did not come to the scene when the blaze consumed the ranch. The reasons for this can only be speculated upon, and they have been, with some criticisms conjecturing that the Forest Service focused on other areas such as Mt. Wilson and other explanations pointing to budgetary concerns restraining the Forest Service’s reach.
Webb has her own beliefs.
“They don’t view this as private property,” she said. “I was told ‘You are just part of the forest.’ But this is private property. This is my property.”
Webb also cites this as the reasoning behind other efforts to alter the landscape before and after the fire, including the cutting down of numerous trees.
Despite all this, Singing Springs has managed to maintain its way of life. Webb’s sister, Andrea, and her husband Paul Jenkins worked to build sets for the upcoming movie. A small film crew planned their operations atop a ridge that overlooked the charred terrain before them.
A year removed and the setting of 42 films in the past four years was being prepared for yet another one, a sign that the ranch was hopefully returning to some state of normalcy.