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Firefighters tackle blaze near Hilltop House, Walmart in Apple Valley –



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Firefighters from several agencies worked to extinguish a vegetation fire on the rocky hillside between Walmart and the Hilltop House in Apple Valley.
Fire Investigator Jennifer Alexy, with the Apple Valley Fire Protection District, told the Daily Press that the fire was reported at approximately 8:16 p.m. on Friday behind the big box store located on Highway 18.
About 20 firefighters from the AVFPD, Victorville Fire Department and Cal Fire worked the hillside, where small fires were seen erupting between the rocks in various areas.  
At one point, a fireline was seen burning along the side of the nearly 3,200 foot tall hill.
The smaller fires were difficult to detect by commuters on Highway 18. However, the flashing lights from numerous fire vehicles parked near the Hilltop House could be seen from miles away.
As residents watched the unfolding incident from the parking lot of Walmart, firefighters worked to create a fireline around the blaze to ensure that it would not spread.
Just before 9:30 p.m., the fire’s forward progress was halted at 2-acres, with cooler temperatures and hardly any wind helping firefighters. Just after 10 p.m., the fire had been 90% contained, AVFPD officials reported.
Alexy said firefighters encountered several challenges when arriving at the scene near the Apple Valley Inn property.
“When we got the call for service, we didn’t know exactly where the fire was on the property so gaining access by foot traffic and engines was a challenge to start with,” Alexy said. “The rocky terrain also makes it very unstable for firefighters wearing hose packs that weigh about 60 pounds.”
The fire did not pose a threat to businesses or the abandoned Hilltop House, which is owned by the Town of Apple Valley and marked for demolition.
Firefighters were expected to work late into the night and into Saturday morning extinguishing the blaze and ensuring that there were no spot fires.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
On April 12, the Town Council approved the hiring of the Architerra Design Group to replace the Hilltop House with an observation deck, as well as an open-space trail atop Bass Hill.
The project that would repurpose the iconic house and property would begin sometime after the condemned Hilltop House is demolished.
In March, the Apple Valley Town Council voted unanimously to demolish the historic Hilltop House in preparation for the future construction of an observation deck.
The council decided to raze the dilapidated house, saying the fenced-off structure had been frequently broken into, which potentially exposes the town to liability.
Trespassers and vandals have stolen recyclable materials from the structure. Also, a portion of the second floor has collapsed, the carport was almost destroyed by another fire and graffiti covers much of the building, the council said.
The town has spent tens of thousands of dollars to secure the property more than once and to abate the graffiti and vandalism that has plagued the property.
While the property is not open to the public, many residents use the steep driveway and hillside to hike.
The Hilltop House was built in 1957 mainly by Newton T. Bass and also business partner Bud Westlund, the owners of the Apple Valley Ranchos Land Development Company and founders of the town.
Bass first used the house — situated on nearly 21 acres — to lure potential average and celebrity homeowners such as Bob Hope and Dean Martin.
After a fire nearly destroyed the home in 1967, the structure was rebuilt and was used mainly for office space.
The home’s ownership changed hands several times. The building was used as an entertainment and conference center, hosting events such as meetings, weddings, school activities, receptions, and parties.
After multiple fires, the house was eventually abandoned. The town purchased the house in 2016.
Anyone with information about the ongoing fire investigation should call the Apple Valley Fire Protection District at 760-247-7618 or email at or the Apple Valley Sheriff’s Station at 760-240-7400.
Daily Press reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227 or Follow him on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz


An Open Source activist, who pursues his passion for tech blogging. In early years of his life, he worked as market analyst for a number of companies. Martin has been writing reviews and articles for a local magazine for last five years.