Blue Cut Fire Guts Iconic Route 66 Summit Inn Diner - NBC Bay Area
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Blue Cut Fire Guts Iconic Route 66 Summit Inn Diner

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    The fast-moving Blue Cut Fire destroyed the Summit Inn Restaurant located along historic Route 66 on Tuesday. Cheryl Hurd reports. (Published Friday, Aug. 19, 2016)

    A fast-moving wildfire in the Inland Empire in California left a trail of destruction along Interstate 15, including leveling a historic Route 66 diner which in its heyday was frequented by Hollywood's elite.

    The iconic Summit Inn diner, located in Oak Hills along the Cajon Pass, was a popular roadside destination for people traveling from Los Angeles to Las Vegas since the 1950s.

    The vintage building's signature red neon "Summit Inn" sign would flash on and off, beckoning drivers along Interstate 15 to stop in for a bite to eat or visit the gift shop full of memorabilia.

    It is now in ashes.

    "It is beyond comprehension how this could possibly happen," reads a message posted on the diner's Facebook page.

    The devastating Blue Cut fire has destroyed 96 homes and 213 outbuildings as of Friday. Embers from the wildland fire have also gutted the landmark inn.

    Ten tables full of customers and a half-dozen employees fled the restaurant around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday when firefighters told them they had to leave. The restaurant was destroyed just hours later.

    The Summit Inn, which opened in 1952, was visited by both tourists and celebrities alike. Elvis Presley, John Wayne and Pierce Brosnan are just some of the famous faces that have visited the diner.

    Former restaurant owner, Cecil Stevens, who sold the restaurant last month to Katherine Juarez, came to the Summit Inn on Friday to salvage memories.

    "That was the year we didn’t have any Elvis records in the jukebox," Stevens recalled. "He got a little upset and kicked the jukebox."

    The restaurant is known for ostrich burgers and eggs cooked in a kitchen that is now charred. The fire also destroyed the next-door cottage of Michele Keeney, the Summit Inn's general manager, and her husband. 

    In "the hour and a half before the ridge caught fire, CHP told us three to four times we need to go," Scott Keeney said. "We grabbed the cat, lizard — out we went.”

    Juarez said the family plans to to see what memorabilia can be saved. The diner was insured and the family hopes to rebuild, she said.

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