May 13, 2006

Blythe Calif Station Burns

Author: Winks
Blythe area paper

The historic Santa Fe Depot, a Blythe landmark that has graced the city since 1926, was destroyed by fire the afternoon of May 2. No one was injured in the fire. Witnesses told police they saw sparks from overhead electrical wires and that is believed to have been the cause of the inferno. Despite being closed for years, the depot still had electric and gas turned on.

Jim Green, manager of the Blythe Food Pantry, which sits adjacent to the former depot, said he and a friend were working on his car out back of the Pantry facing the depot when they smelled smoke.

"I said 'darn, it smells like rubber burning,'" Green said. "I ran around to the other side of the car and was fixing to look at the vehicle when I noticed the smell coming in from the southwest. I looked at the dock of the building and flames were coming up from under the loading dock."

Green's friend dialed 911 and Blythe Volunteer Fire responded.

Fire Chief Billy Kem said it was the first big fire he's been on since being appointed to the position last month.

"It was a shame," he said about the fire that took down the 80-year-old building. "It was just an old wooden structure-type building that had been there a long, long time. We don't know the cause and there was no putting it out - it got up into the top real quick."

Kem said the blaze started at the south end of the building and burned through to the front.

Located at Rice and Commercial streets, the building was first constructed in 1926, 10 years after rail service first came to Blythe. The depot was listed in Riverside County's Historic Resources Inventory by the Riverside County Historical Commission in 1983.