Quail Fire Deemed Suspicious

Owners hope to rebuild the inn despite new permit requirements
and county regulations
Gilroy – The fire that destroyed the Quail Canyon Inn last month appears to have been purposely set, an official with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention said Friday.

“All the indicators are that way,” fire prevention specialist Chris Morgan said, adding that the CDF is looking for the public’s help in solving the cause of the blaze. “I’m sure somebody out there knows something or has heard something.”

Officially, the fire’s cause is listed as “undetermined/suspicious,” and the case will remain open. Morgan said investigators have ruled out other causes that would point to an accident.

Meanwhile, Ray and Georgia Jeffers, the Quail’s owners, say they want to rebuild the inn, which stood for more than 60 years near the Chesbro Reservoir, northwest of Morgan Hill.

“It was a real loved place and everybody’s eager to have it back,” Georgia Jeffers said. “Our hope is to build it back, but we have to take it step by step.”

The Quail Inn dates back to at least the 1940s and was a hugely popular watering hole with locals who stopped in for a pint after work, and bikers who used the Quail as a way station.

Over the years, the Quail developed a reputation as a dangerous place, a reputation exacerbated by the fire.

Dan Roth, a Morgan Hill resident who had been trying to buy the inn, said rumors have been swirling that patrons who had been banned from the bar may have set the fire for revenge.

“There were several people banned from coming up there,” Roth said. “They were deemed as not appropriate for being allowed to patronize it.”

But like many other regular Quail patrons, Roth defended the bar as a friendly, relaxed place that helped people in the Chesbro Lake area form a community.

“It was more like a family group than anything else,” Roth said. “We would all get together for our Friday night barbecues. We would have everybody’s birthday parties up there.”

Roth said the fire occurred just before a planned fundraising event to buy uniforms for volunteer firefighters. And Mike Vancil, who started going to the Quail in 1982, said the inn was a critical meeting spot during the 2002 Croy Road fire.

“A lot of us would go down there to exchange information,” Vancil said. “A lot of pets were brought there to be reunited with their owners. That’s how we got to meet each other, most of us.”

The Quail fire has left locals without a place to bend an elbow. Vancil said he’s “actually going home and getting chores done” after work. While the Jeffers’ want to rebuild, county zoning and building regulations may make rebuilding very difficult.

The Quail was built before many regulations were in place. County planner Gary Rudholm said Friday that rebuilding would likely require significant upgrades to the sewer and water systems. And, the inn was in an area that now places stringent size limits on bars and restaurants.

Planners would also have to verify that the inn was a legal structure. If it wasn’t, the county will not issue permits to rebuild it. Rudholm was not able to identify the inn on any records in the planning or assessor’s office Friday, but that doesn’t mean the inn wasn’t a legal structure.

Georgia Jeffers said she and her husband will do everything they can to open a new Quail Canyon Inn.

“We’ll approach them and do what they tell us to do,” she said. “If I was young enough I would keep it for another 50 years. The people are wonderful. It’s just a wonderful place to come and enjoy.”

Anyone with information about the fire may call CDF at 779-2121.

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