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Zaca Lake Lodge Destroyed in Fire May Be Familiar to Horror Flick Fans

Investigators have not determined the cause for the fire that started at the tranquil retreat site, which was also a filming location

The lodge at Zaca Lake, seen here, burned to the ground Wednesday. The lodge was a frequent filming location and reportedly could be seen in “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.” Click to view larger
The lodge at Zaca Lake, seen here, burned to the ground Wednesday. The lodge was a frequent filming location and reportedly could be seen in “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.” (Visit Santa Barbara photo)

The cause of the fire that destroyed the lodge at Zaca Lake on Wednesday remains undetermined, but the building lost in the flames may be familiar to film fans.

Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason said the structure fire sparked the 3-5-acre vegetation fire.

“The structure fire’s cause is undetermined because it was such a large area and the damage was so great,” Eliason said. 

Downed power lines were observed at the site, but investigators could not say whether they sparked the fire or were knocked down due to the blaze.

Flames quickly consumed the lodge Wednesday evening, leaving ashes where the wooden structure one stood. Photos from the site show only the lodge’s chimney still standing. 

Zaca Lake Retreat, operated by the nonprofit Zaca Lake Foundation, is privately owned and most recently has been rented out to groups between 30 and 120 people for retreats, weddings and family reunions, but not to individuals seeking the tranquil setting. It’s also available for filming.

In addition to the lodge, the 320-acre site includes 20 smaller cabins near the 20-acre spring-fed lake. 

“Zaca Lake Retreat is a dedicated retreat center focused on giving back to the community through offering a place of peace and tranquility for groups of all ages,” a representative said via email.

“Presently we are busy taking care of cleanup and serving the needs of all those who retreat at Zaca,” the statement said, adding the site was closed to media. 

“Perhaps when we are rebuilding we can consider inviting you in to share the beautiful story of Zaca Lake.”

While Zaca Lake now sits behind a locked gate, the site once was easily accessible so local residents have many memories of spending time at the lodge, canoeing the lake and hiking nearby trails. 

“I hope they can rebuild something stunning so we can continue to have great film project out there,” Santa Barbara County Film Commissioner Geoff Alexander said.

Alexander said he is saddened by the loss of the “gorgeous old building and piece of history for Santa Barbara County.”

A century ago, “a multitude of silent movies were filmed on location at Zaca Lake, as nearby Santa Barbara was at the time the film capital of the world,” according to the resort. 

A 1915 silent film even shares a name with the site: The Zaca Lake Mystery.

Film fans contend the site was used for filming scenes in one of the Friday the 13th movies, but Zaca representatives deny any connection.

The Internet Movie Database, and numerous fan sites, said the lake and surrounding terrain appeared in the 1984 Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter during skinny dipping and hiking scenes.

Other movies reportedly filmed there include The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

More recently, the site has been used for several commercials and still photograph projects including for Abercrombie & Fitch and Nationwide Insurance, Alexander said.

While the lodge has appeared in films, most crews are attracted by the lake and surrounding scenery. The spring-fed lake's level remains almost impervious to California's drought, he added.

“It definitely remains an attractive and viable filming location especially during California's drought,” Alexander said. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Authorities are investigating the cause of the fire that destroyed the Zaca Lake Retreat lodge Wednesday night. Click to view larger
Authorities are investigating the cause of the fire that destroyed the Zaca Lake Retreat lodge Wednesday night.  (Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

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