A two-alarm fire ripped through the historic Tehachapi train depot Friday morning, causing more than $1 million in damage to property and contents. "The loss to community cannot be measured." said Capt. Jim Eckroth of the Kern County Fire Department.
Twenty-four firefighters responded to the fire at 3:08 a.m. in the 100 block of West Tehachapi Boulevard. The large wooden structure was fully engulfed when they arrived. It took firefighters 76 minutes to control the blaze, and rail service on the adjacent tracks was stopped briefly while firefighters worked to put out the fire.
Erected in 1904, the depot is one of more than 60 depots built between 1896 and 1916 using a standard Southern Pacific Railroad design known as Plan No. 23. Only six are left, according to firefighters, and the Tehachapi Depot is the only remaining depot still situated at its original building site. It is also one of the few buildings that remained standing after the 1953 Tehachapi earthquake. The Depot is one of two buildings in Tehachapi listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Union Pacific Railroad handed over keys to the Depot to the City of Tehachapi in 2005.
THE TEHACHAPI DEPOT
Built in 1904, the Tehachapi Depot restoration project was, and is, the heart of a revitalization effort that has been going on for several years in downtown Tehachapi. When completed, it would have provided areas for Main Street Redevelopment (office space), The City of Tehachapi (public/private meetings and functions), and The Tehachapi Depot Railroad Museum. The area around the Depot was designed to be park-like, with full-size railroad signals on display. The rear of the Depot building would have a viewing platform with benches conveniently placed facing the tracks so visitors could sit and watch the trains. A separate building for restrooms has been built a short distance from the Depot, and was unaffected by the fire.
COUNCIL DECIDES TO REBUILD HISTORICAL LANDMARK
The Tehachapi City Council held their regular meeting last night and not only added the Depot to their Agenda, but moved it to the first item up for discussion. The meeting was well attended by members of The Friends of the Tehachapi Depot (FTD), the public, and news media. Several people appeared before the Council, offering donations to rebuild the Depot. It was pointed out that the Tehachapi Depot is one of only two officially designated Historical Landmarks in Tehachapi, the other being the Errea House. With very little discussion, the Council moved to rebuild the Depot and push the project so its completion can be celebrated at our Centennial Celebration in August 2009.
NEED FOR ADDITIONAL FUNDS
Although the Depot was insured, there will be insufficient funding to complete the rebuilding effort. Thus, the Friends are asking for donations to assist their restoration project.
Please make checks or money orders payable to: "Friends of The Tehachapi Depot" and send them to:
Friends of the Tehachapi Depot
P. O. Box 2044
Tehachapi, CA 93581-2044.
Friends of the Tehachapi Depot is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, so donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.
Fire Marshals have determined that the fire was caused by aerial fireworks being set off late at night. The Bakersfield Californian had the following story posted on their web site.
Tuesday, Jun 17 2008 6:33 PM
Last Updated: Tuesday, Jun 17 2008 6:45 PM
Investigators have identified the suspects who used illegal fireworks that ignited a fire at a historic train depot in Tehachapi last week.
The suspects have not yet been named or arrested, said Sean Collins, spokesman for the Kern County Fire Department. Charges are pending on an investigation by the Kern County District Attorney's Office. Collins said he didn't know their names.
On June 13, a fire ravaged the 104-year-old Tehachapi train depot in the 100 block of West Tehachapi Boulevard. The blaze caused more than $1 million in damage.
The suspects were reckless when using aerial fireworks late at night, Collins said. He did not know how many were involved when the fireworks "got out of hand." The fireworks landed in the depot.
All fireworks are illegal in Tehachapi because it is a mountainous area, according to the KCFD.