California

‘Little House on the Prairie’ set lost in Ventura County fire sparked by lightning

Ventura County firefighters extinguish a small fire sparked by lightning in the foothills around Simi Valley on Sunday.
Ventura County firefighters extinguish a small fire sparked by lightning in the foothills around Simi Valley on Sunday. Ventura County Fire Department

The bucolic prairie abode that TV’s Laura Ingalls and her frontier family called home for eight seasons in the 1970s and 1980s is no more, destroyed in a fire on Sunday.

Lightning ignited the brush fire that set ablaze the “Little House on the Prairie” film set in the hills above Simi Valley in Ventura County late Sunday, taking with it the memories of the long-running NBC television series.

“It’s one of the last props, if not the last props from the set,” Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Scott Dettorre told The Sacramento Bee on Wednesday.

A storm system that moved into the east side of Ventura County produced the lightning strike. The bolt hit “on or near” the set on the sprawling 6,500-acre Big Sky Movie Ranch, close enough to a county fire station that crews there could see its glow, Dettorre said.

Big Sky is the oldest and largest operational movie ranch in Southern California, according to its website, and has been the site for television and film productions from classics like “Gunsmoke,” “Bonanza” and “Dallas” to the action film “Transformers.”

From 1974-83, the ranch’s dusty paths and rolling oak-dotted hills stood in for Walnut Grove, Minn., the 1870s frontier hamlet where the Ingalls family, played by Michael Landon (Pa), Karen Grassle (Ma), Melissa Sue Anderson (Mary), twins Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush (Carrie) and Melissa Gilbert, as Laura, entertained television audiences over its 204-episode run. The popular series was adapted from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series of books.

Fire crews hampered by rain and rough terrain could not access the scene, but the brief storm extinguished the blaze before it spread to other buildings on the site. The fire burned about a quarter-acre.

“The storm started the fire and the storm put it out,” Dettorre said.

On Monday, Ventura County fire crews aboard a helicopter and four-wheel drive vehicles ventured to the scene to find the set destroyed.

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