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Fire breaks out at Texas landmark Cadillac Ranch

NBC News

A fire broke out Sunday at the “Cadillac Ranch,” the Texas landmark just off the interstate near Amarillo with half-buried and paint-covered classic cars, a sheriff’s official said.

Deputies received a call about a fire at the ranch, which features 10 cars lined up and buried nose-in, around 2:15 a.m. One car at the end of the row was burning, and the fire was extinguished about 20 minutes later, according to a Potter County sheriff’s official.

Potter County fire crews and the Texas Department of Public Safety also responded and are investigating the incident.

It was not immediately clear what caused the fire.

The Cadillacs are on private property, but there is an entrance off Interstate 40, the sheriff’s office said.

Cadillac Ranch is an art installation and popular tourist destination, and the subject of song penned by Bruce Springsteen.

The sheriff’s office would not characterize the investigation, but a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation said authorities are searching for whoever may have set the fire.

The sheriff’s office said no arrests have been made.

Potter County Fire-Rescue said that arson of a vehicle on the property of another is a second-degree felony, and asked anyone with information to contact the Potter County Sheriff’s Office.

The Cadillacs were placed into the ground in 1974, Route 66 historian Bob “Crocodile” Lile told NBC News last year. “You go out there any time of the day or night, and there will be people there — winter, summer, rain, heat, it doesn’t make any difference,” he said at the time.

“It’s a magical place. It’s just one of those iconic things that is world-wide known,” Lile said.

Visitors to the Cadillac ranch stand near the art installation in Amarillo, Texas on Aug. 17, 2015.Michael S. Williamson / The Washington Post/Getty Images file

A post on the ranch’s Facebook page Sunday said that the oldest of the 10 Cadillacs was set on fire, but that its structural integrity is sound. It said the ranch is “heartbroken by this act of vandalism and the layers of history that were so carelessly destroyed.”

“When all is said and done, the Cadillac Ranch still stands as a testament to time, beauty, art and history — despite the callous attempt to erase it,” the statement said. ” Much like their West Texas home, these Cadillacs are iconic for their strength — through adversity, drought, wind, and fire, they remain standing through the decades.”

The ranch was created by Stanley Marsh and The Ant Farm in 1974, and the classic cars trace the evolution of the tail fin from 1949 to 1964, said Bryan Brumley, who works for the property owners and is an administrator of the Facebook page.

People are allowed to spray paint the vehicles and many have done so over the decades. The weekend fire mainly burned off all the paint of the car, Brumley said in a phone interview Monday night. But by Monday, tourists were at the ranch and more paint had been added.

“So many people have already painted it, so it’s really back to business as usual,” Brumley said.

“All we want, we want people to enjoy themselves,” he said.

Andrew Blankstein

Andrew Blankstein is an investigative reporter for NBC News. He covers the Western United States, specializing in crime, courts and homeland security. 

Phil Helsel

Phil Helsel is a reporter for NBC News.

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