Some stood by in disbelief, others stopped their cars to take pictures with cell phones or cameras. All were mourning the loss of the historic Sierra Nevada House, a hotel and restaurant on Lotus Road and Highway 49 that was a gathering place for locals and seasonal rafters alike.
A fire broke out Monday afternoon and destroyed the upper floors that contained the hotel rooms. The kitchen was also extensively damaged.
"It's devastating, it's horrible, this was our second home," said Cherie Davis, a bartender at the inn. About 15 employees are out of jobs. The inn employs twice that many people during the summer rafting season.
Several massage salons and a photography business were also housed in a wing of the complex. They were also closed because of fire damage.
Luckily passersby rushed to empty the businesses of valuables.
"They saved everything...this is before I even got here...they just pitched in and did what they had to do, it was awesome...a very big thank you to them," said massage business owner Marcia Campbell.
The Sierra Nevada House was built in 1850 and has burned down twice before and has changed locations and been rebuilt. Locals and employees hope it can be rebuilt again despite extensive damage.
The owners say they will do all they can to try to rebuild the historic building.