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Chucke Walkden/Contributed photo Onlookers watch as a fire burns at the... (Chucke Walkden)

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BROOKDALE - The Brookdale Inn & Spa, the famed haunted hotel and restaurant, burned Tuesday night with flames shooting high into the sky.

The back part of the motel was first reported on fire at 5:30 p.m. and at 6:30 p.m. the fire was upgrade to a third alarm.

Flames do not appear to have hit the front of the hotel or the famed restaurant. The building that burned is a two-story section of the main building with apartments. The part of the hotel where guests stay was not damaged.

Structure crews fought the fire in the building and Cal Fire crews fought the fire in the trees.

One helicopter and two air tankers, helped fight the blaze. One air tanker made a drop of fire retardant because fire crews were worried about spot fires spreading into the wildland, Scotts Valley Fire Chief Mike McMurry said.

There were about 100 firefighters from more than a half-dozen fire departments on the scene.

There are no reports of injuries to anybody staying or living at the inn, however some firefighters suffered minor injuries.

Michele Blum, who recently started as sales manager of the inn, said she lives just two doors down from where the fire stopped burning.

"We are working to restore the hotel and this is like a spark of a fresh start," she said.

The lodging area where

people can rent rooms for the night had been remodeled, she said. Workers quarters and one other building had yet to be completed.


She said they were working to restore the hotel to its splendor of the 1920s when it was one of the most popular lodges in the country.

"The owner is going to be heartbroken, he's been trying to clean this place up," Blum said.

A maintenance worker at the inn speculated the fire could have been electrical because it appeared to start in a vacant room, filled with mattresses, in an area where no one was working.

Leno Nanez, a bus boy at the Inn, said, "I had just gotten out of the shower and someone opened the door and said fire."

Nanez, who had been working and living at the Inn for more than two years, said he lost everything.

Sherri Hutchinson, a Brookdale resident, said she saw big plumes of black smoke rising from the building and flames as high as the trees around the inn around 5:30 p.m.

Dax Kopecky, who lives near the inn, said "there were 15- to 20-foot flames coming from the building."

His wife, Maggie, said she saw her neighbors on the other side of the lodge hosing down their roof.

Neighbor Carrol Swezy said "when I got here the whole back of the building was in flames and the trees started to blow up. I swear to God I felt the warmth of the fire from the highway."

Red Cross was quickly on-scene and an ambulance was staged in the area.

Cal Fire had a full wildland response in the area because of the Lockheed Fire. Just after 6 p.m. aircraft began making drops over the Inn and the surrounding wildland area. Cal Fire sent two air tankers, each with 300 gallons of fire retardant on board.

Highway 9 and Clear Creek Road were closed.

The lodge was bought in 2007 for $5.3 million by Sanjiv Kakkar and has 46 guest suites.

The rustic lodge on Highway 9 features a bar, four-dozen guest rooms and the 80-year old Brook Room restaurant, through which Clear Creak famously runs. The inn has drawn Hollywood stars and a U.S. president, and is rumored to be haunted.

There are also apartments behind the lodge, some of which burned in 2005.

Bill Gilbert, who owned the hotel before selling it to Kakkar, said, "It's too bad. I hate seeing it burn like that."

In recent years, though, the Brookdale Lodge has been plagued by complaints after its 2007 ownership change. In December of that year, residents of apartments behind the lodge complained of trash piling up. In July 2008, a chemical spill killed about 50 endangered steelhead trout swimming through the Brook Room in Clear Creek. Additional investigations found steps and walkways not built to code, while neighbors complained about multiple sex offenders living in apartments on the property.

Kakkar has renovated the property and has run afoul of the county for mounting garbage and construction debris, as well as his failure to secure the proper permits for reconstruction in the past.

A 2008 Sentinel investigation also uncovered a similar history concerning a hotel Kakkar owns in San Francisco. The San Francisco environmental health agency has recorded at least a dozen uncollected garbage violations stemming from unpaid disposal bills at the Abigail Hotel since Kakkar bought the Tenderloin District property seven years ago. The building inspector has forwarded to code enforcement officials a March 2007 permit violation that hasn't been resolved.

Kakkar said in 2008 he didn't believe the ongoing problems with the Abigail should reflect on the work he is undertaking at the Brookdale, which he renamed the Brookdale Inn & Spa after buying it in October from a retired Bay Area police officer who had owned it for 17 years.

The one-time congenial relationship between Kakkar and the former owners soured amid accusations of unresolved debts and other conflicts related to the transfer of ownership, such as the garbage gaffe, as well as allegations that property belonging to the former owners was stolen by one of Kakkar's workers - a charge Kakkar denies.

The original lodge was built in 1890. The dining room with the brook running through it was added in the early 1920s. A feature in "Ripley's Believe It or Not" brought the lodge worldwide fame, and it's played host to a number of notable guests, including Marilyn Monroe and President Herbert Hoover.

The 1940s and '50s ushered in a period of gangsters and other shady characters at the lodge, according to Halloween and harvest season event Web site Haunted Bay. Secret passageways and hidden rooms were installed throughout the lodge, and rumors of buried bodies under the floor began to circulate. Also during that time, Sarah Logan, 6, the niece of the lodge owner, drowned in the dining room creek. Her ghost is the one reportedly seen at the Brookdale.

Brookdale Lodge, now Inn & Spa History

1890 - Original lodge built by Judge J.H. Logan at the site of the Grover lumber mill.

1923-24 - Dr. F.K. Camp, an entrepreneur and former medical doctor, adds a dining room, built around Clear Creek. A Seventh-day Adventist, Camp sells no alcohol on premises. During the next 20 years, the lodge will host such luminaries as Marilyn Monroe, Joan Crawford and former President Herbert Hoover.

March 1946 - Camp sells restaurant-hotel to A. Thatcher Cook, a former San Francisco lawyer, his Navy buddy Robert M. Chatton and W. Gooding Smith of Sun Valley, Idaho, for $150,000. Partners add a cocktail bar.

February 1951 - Barney Morrow, owner of a chain restaurant and refrigeration company, purchases lodge for $182,000. A year later he purchases the Brookdale Inn on the other side of Highway 9 to use as an annex.

Oct. 24, 1956 - Predawn flames erupt at the lodge. More than 100 firefighters battle the blaze. The dining room and an adjoining 12-room house are destroyed. Ghost Town, a group of stores adjacent to the dining room are badly damaged. Damage estimated at $200,000.

June 1957 - Rebuilding and expansion with a mountain chalet motif nearly complete. Interior lighting includes pieces from San Francisco city streets, the old Baghdad ballroom in Oakland and St. Paul Methodist Church in San Jose.

August 1960 - Morrow sells interest to group of investors including Dr. Gordon H. Anderson of Boulder Creek and Michael Waldron of Live Oak after selling $1.1 million in stock to finance construction of a 126-room motel, indoor swimming pool and shops and to purchase neighboring property. State commissioner charges construction plans changed without consent of stockholders and freezes sales. Some $500,000 from the stock issue reported missing.

February 1961 - Morrow quits board.

1964 - Lodge declared bankrupt, and 3,000 people, who receive $1 of the $10 per share they paid in settlement.

1965 - Lodge opens under new owners Nicholas M. Garcia Jr. and Juili Nitrio, who purchased it for $350,000.

1966 - Developer Archie Cline buys lodge in foreclosure sale for $350,000 and plans $1 million condominium development.

1973 - Cline loses use permit after unauthorized rock concerts rile authorities.

1974 - Lodge manager John Eugene Madera, 53, collapses and dies after confronting speeding motorists in the parking lot.

1976 - New owner R.T. Burger announces plans to restore the lodge, which was operating as a "half-shuttered residential motel."

1977 - Bill Gus buys lodge from Burger for $725,000, but ends up in bankruptcy court a year later.

January 1982 - Lodge is used as a Red Cross center after floods, which also caked dining room with mud.

September 1982 - Fire destroys Brookdale Lodge chapel. Cause undetermined.

1987 - New owner Dick McCracken has some success.

1989 - Bill Gilbert, a lieutenant with the San Francisco Police Department who vacationed as a child in the San Lorenzo Valley, bought the county's ultimate fixer-upper.

Nov. 10, 2005 - Blaze damages four apartments at rear of lodge.

2007 - Sanjiv Kakkar purchases lodge for $5.3 million and begins extensive renovations.

Source: Sentinel files.