A four-alarm fire destroyed several buildings at a historic apple orchard in Oak Glen, about 80 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, early this morning. The bakery, ranch store, ranger shop, and 114-year-old packing house at Riley’s at Los Rios Rancho were consumed, according to the Oak Glen Preserve and Southern California Montane Botanic Garden. CalFire received the first report of the fire at Los Rios Rancho at 2:15 a.m. and several buildings were already burning when they arrived.
The ranch was part of the multimillion-dollar Riley’s Farm empire, where more than 40 family members have been participating in popular living history programs for decades. The Riley family purchased more than 200 acres from descendants of founder Joe Wilshire, who planted the first apple trees on the mountain in 1871. In addition to growing apples, strawberries, raspberries, and pumpkins, the family hosts concerts, barn dances, wagon rides, cider pressing, a petting zoo, and arts and crafts programs for kids. Los Rios Rancho recently added fancy coffee, hard cider, and a cigar lounge to their offerings.
Riley’s Farm and Riley’s at Los Rios Rancho had just reopened for business two weeks ago. Fall is big at Los Rios, which has a corn maze and a popular Sleepy Hollow dinner program. Soon after the fire was extinguished, they announced that their U-Pick operation would remain open.
Nearby Riley’s Farm was not damaged in today’s fire and escaped the El Dorado blaze last month. Owner James Riley refused a visit by Governor Gavin Newsom, who wanted to hold a press conference on his property. “We felt vindicated because he politicized it,” Riley told NBC News. “He blamed the entire problem on global warming.” James Riley has been accused of posting racist, homophobic, and misogynistic messages on social media, which prompted school districts to put a moratorium on field trips.
Los Rios Rancho is managed by Riley’s nephew Devon and his family, who have felt the need to distance themselves from the more controversial elements of the family business. “We do not agree with or affirm Jim Riley’s personal posts about political or personal matters,” they posted to Facebook. “We will not endorse hateful or racists comments. While we believe in being attractive and winsome ambassadors for Christ, we prefer not to involve political action (or opinion) in our business lives.”
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