The fire that destroyed her home, her possessions and even her late husband's ashes did not break the spirit of Frances Plante Scott, widow of the Ventura County millionaire who was fatally shot by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies in a drug raid last fall.
"I'm going to rebuild like they rebuilt the Alamo," Scott vowed Friday after surveying the blackened remains of her caretaker's cottage, bunkhouse and 1,000-square-foot ranch house, which was built in the 1920s with 12-foot ceilings and massive redwood beams.
Donald Scott, 61-year-old heir to a European chemical fortune, was shot twice the morning of Oct. 2, 1992. Deputies had a search warrant alleging that marijuana was being grown on the 200-acre ranch, but no plants were found. Frances Scott, 39, has contended in a lawsuit that the raid was part of an effort to seize the property through narcotics forfeiture laws.
"I believe (law enforcement officials) think I'm going to leave because of this fire, but I'm not," she said defiantly. "I'll continue to fight the U.S. government--they are never going to get that land. I'll live here--and die here--like my husband did."
Hidden in a small canyon a mile off Mulholland Highway in the Santa Monica Mountains near Malibu, Scott's Trail's End Ranch went up in flames about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday. Standing a few miles away on a high mountain road, Frances Scott watched helplessly as the fire raced toward her home.
"Donald always said we were protected by the updraft," she said, wiping a dark smudge from her face. "That's what I wanted to think, but I never believed it."
Just before fleeing the ranch Tuesday night, Scott put her cowboy hat and her late husband's cowboy hat in a fire pit "for good luck." If the hats burned, she said, that meant she should move and give up trying to buy the two-thirds ownership in the property that went to Scott's other heirs.
"Everything's gone but these cowboy hats," she said, opening boxes to reveal the two black Resistol hats.
The structures were insured, Scott said, but the contents weren't. Although she lost her possessions, she was philosophical, calling them "only material things."
Her late husband's ashes were in an urn on a fireplace mantel and were destroyed, she said. "I guess it's true what the Bible says about ashes to ashes."
Scott is not sure where she will live until permanent quarters are rebuilt. "The tepee poles (on the property) didn't burn, so I might live on the land like the Indians," said Scott, who said she is part Iroquois.