Scotty’s Castle Visitor Center fire investigation inconclusive

The initial investigation into the cause of the fire at Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley National Park has recently concluded. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) determined the fire began inside the Visitor Center.

Before and after photos of Scotty’s Castle Visitors Center.

The investigation was not able to determine a cause of the fire. The fire started the night of April 21/22 after all personnel had left the construction site. No generators or equipment were located where the fire started. No electrical power was connected to the building. No lightning was reported. There was no evidence of arson.

Scotty’s Castle Visitor Center, which was the site’s garage/workshop in the 1920s, was badly damaged by a flash flood in October 2015. After several years of work securing funding, preparing designs, and conducting environmental compliance, construction started last November. Flood repairs were 37% complete when the historic structure burned down.

“We hope to be able to reconstruct the Visitor Center,” said Superintendent Mike Reynolds. “The garage is the building closest to the parking lot. Its loss leaves a gaping hole in the historic landscape.”

Scotty’s Castle is formally listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Death Valley Scotty Historic District. The garage was built in 1922 and functioned as the workshop to support the construction of the district.

After a two-month pause due to the health risk of wind-blown asbestos from the Visitor Center debris pile, work has now resumed on other flood recovery projects at Scotty’s Castle. The flood control project should start this fall, along with several smaller projects. The historic district is scheduled to reopen in 2023. Park staff are working on plans for visitor services now that the Visitor Center burned down

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