Questions Surround Fire That Destroyed Vacant Menifee Home Wednesday Night

An electric dryer stands silently amid the remains of the destroyed residence. Call it the Mystery ...

An electric dryer stands silently amid the remains of the destroyed residence.

Call it the Mystery House.

Neighbors say they don't know who last lived there or exactly when. Most locals don't even know there was a home up there on the hill above Holland Road in Menifee, long since abandoned.

The mail box at 26240 Holland Road stands empty and alone at the side of the road, across from where Red Fox Road leads up to a modern housing development on the opposite hill. A couple hundred yards west on Holland is the intersection with Murrieta Road -- just another rural spot among the growing communities in town.

Up a winding dirt road, on 13 acres of land surrounded by trees and boulders at the top of a hill, lies the charred remains of what just yesterday was an abandoned manufactured home. According to property records, it was a two-bedroom, two-bath home, built in 1975 and last sold in 1990. A title search reveals that it is owned by an investment group.

Today, it's a pile of rubble, destroyed by a fire Wednesday night. Cal Fire-Riverside County Fire Department crews had the blaze under control a little after 9 p.m. -- roughly half an hour after it was first reported. Quick work by the firefighters preserved a grove of trees surrounding the place, which could've ignited and spread the fire to some nearby horse stables and other structures.

Motorists slowed down Thursday morning to look up on the hill, where flames had lit up the sky just hours before. Some wondered what exactly had burned up there. Was there really a house on the hill?

"I've lived here 24 years, and I never knew anything was up there," said Elaine Cruz, who lives in the area. "Then my nephew came running in the house last night and said, 'There's a fire on the hill.' "

Ann Hickey, a neighbor of Cruz, said she has often driven by the property and noticed a locked gate at the side of the road.

"As you drive down Holland from Murrieta Road, you could see the top of a house up there," she said.

By Thursday morning, all that remained were mangled steel girders, some bricks and the remnants of what was once a home -- a satellite dish, an electric dryer and pieces of furniture. A few yards away stands an empty swimming pool. Quail run all over the place. One could see that in its day, this was a quiet retreat for someone.

What happened to it Wednesday night, no one knows for sure. Officially, the cause of the fire is under investigation, according to Melody Hendrickson of the Fire Department's public affairs office.

"It's still very early; this just happened," she said. "Often, we don't have a cause in the incident report. If we find one, the report will be updated immediately."

Michelle, who asked that her last name not be used, lives on an adjacent hill overlooking the property. She and her husband were standing in their driveway and talking about 8:30 Wednesday night when her husband heard a noise and looked toward the next hill.

"It looked like it had just started," Michelle said. "There was no smoke yet but it looked like a doo