Right up until a blazing wildfire a few years back, the iconic Little House on the Prairie set stood proud in Simi Valley, California.
The setting was Walnut Grove, Minnesota. Yet in reality, that little house on the prairie stood states away in sunny California’s Ventura County. Simi Valley, to be exact.
From 1974 to 1983, viewers had a home away from home in the 1870s frontier hamlet. Within, the Ingalls family, led by Michael Landon’s patriarch, Charles, saw to their day-to-day for 204 episodes and multiple spinoff efforts. Couple Prairie‘s glimpse into early American life with the nostalgia audiences now feel for its 70s-80s prominence, and you’ve got the recipe for a pure Americana classic.
Famously, the finale of the program featured the Ingalls and other characters destroying the majority of the set. But not all of it. And for many years after, some the iconic Ingalls structures remained – right where the show left off. That is until a catastrophe wiped the slate clean as nature so often does.
In April of 2019, lightning ignited a brush fire in Simi Valley. Much of the land was reduced to ash, taking the Little House on the Prairie set with it.
“It’s one of the last props, if not the last props from the set,” Scott Dettoree told The Sacramento Bee at the time.
Dettoree, spokesman for the Ventura County Fire Department, said the lightning bolt hit “on or near” the actual set. The Prairie homestead was long a part of the 6,500-acre Big Sky Movie Ranch in the valley. Thankfully, Dettoree’s fire station was so close that they could see the blaze ignite and act fast – before all of Big Sky was lost.
Nature’s Wrath Destroys Decades-Old ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Set
The strike came as part of a storm system that hit the east side of Ventura County, which hosts Big Sky. It’s the oldest and largest operational movie ranch in Southern California, their website states. Alongside Little House on the Prairie, Big Sky has given life to Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and Dallas. Even the modern Transformers films would take advantage of the historic ranch.
It was a storm for the ages, too. Ventura Co. fire crews fought blistering winds and rains, alongside rough terrain, in an attempt to reach the inferno. Yet in the end, it was the storm itself that extinguished the wildfire.
“The storm started the fire and the storm put it out,” Dettorre adds at the time.
This was a blessing, as all in all, only a quarter-acre of Big Sky was lost. But the Little House on the Prairie set, an icon of American pop culture that stood for almost six decades, was no more.
After the fire, Ventura County fire crews took to the air via helicopter to see the set in ashes. Four-wheel drive vehicles found the same, with no trace of the Ingalls’ structures left.