Getty fire off 405 Freeway in L.A. destroys several homes; thousands flee



A wind-driven brush fire chewed through hillside communities on the west side of Los Angeles on Monday, burning homes and prompting widespread evacuations.

The Getty fire broke out shortly after 1:30 a.m. along the 405 Freeway near the Getty Center and spread to the south and west, rapidly burning more than 600 acres and sending people fleeing from their homes in the dark. About 10,000 structures have been placed under mandatory evacuation orders.

Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas said that, despite firefighters’ efforts, at least eight homes, including some on Tigertail Road, had been destroyed in the blaze. Five others were damaged. Some homes that were destroyed were adjacent to properties that didn’t sustain any damage, he said.

“They were literally overwhelmed,” Terrazas said of crews fighting the fire within neighborhoods. “They had to make some tough decisions on which houses they were able to protect. Many times, it depends upon where the ember lands.”

The evacuation zone, which was described by fire officials as a box — Mulholland Drive on the north side, the 405 on the east, Sunset Boulevard on the south and Temescal Canyon Road on the west — remains in place.

Mayor Eric Garcetti has urged residents to leave if they are under mandatory evacuation orders. Some he said, have had as little as 15 minutes to flee as the flames approached.

“Get out when we say get out,” he said, telling homeowners they should not try to fight the fire with garden hoses. “The only thing you cannot replace is you and your family.”

An L.A. City firefighter keeps down flames at a burned home in the 1100 block of Tigertail Road in the Brentwood Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles.  (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

The sun rises over smoke filled canyons above the Getty museum and a burned home on Tigertail Rd. as the Getty fire burns in Los Angeles, Calif.  (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

Roughly 600 firefighters faced a challenging battle with the Getty fire Monday as strong Santa Ana winds picked up through the region. Before the sun rose, embers were being cast a mile ahead of the body of the blaze, igniting spot fires and homes. Thick smoke was visible across the Los Angeles Basin.

Fire officials advised residents outside the mandatory evacuation zone but still in the fire area to prepare to leave in case winds shifted the direction of the blaze.

“It’s a dangerous season right now,” Terrazas said. “We have not had any significant rainfall for a period of time. That’s why we’re very concerned about these weather conditions.”

‘We’re going to be here a long time’

Mark Curry, LAFD battalion chief, stood on a cliff-edge patio bench in Brentwood with panoramic views of the charred remains of some of the most expensive real estate in Los Angeles.

“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us,” he said. “We’re going to be here a long time.”

He said saving older homes with cantilevered wooden patios built over dense brush was proving to be a challenge for firefighters.

“Homes with concrete slabs, we can save those,” he said.

With low humidity and high winds whistling through dense chaparral and neighborhoods, emergency crews found themselves fighting fires along several rugged fronts.

It was Los Angeles County firefighter Norman Queen’s job to keep a close eye on the fire behavior on the far side of a narrow canyon where a hand crew of 70 men and women was working to shore up defenses on areas doused with water from helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.

“Without those water drops, this fire would be completely out of control,” Queen said. “They’ve kept things cool enough to get boots on the ground.”

The main concern now, Queen said, “is to make sure there are no surprises — like fire erupting in the brush directly below those crews.”

The blaze did some of its most serious damage along Tigertail Road, where elaborate outdoor Halloween displays of skeletons and pumpkin goblins stood like eerie sentinels as firefighters battled blazes at homes in the affluent Westside enclave.

It was still dark on Tigertail when firefighters first arrived, using hoses to douse hot spots smoldering near homes and sending rivers of water running down the street. A resident stood in his driveway in his bare feet as his wife spoke to police about where to evacuate.

Firetrucks lined the street, smoke choked the air and ash rained down while residents hurried to pack valuables into cars. A woman pointed at a charred home on the street.

“That’s my neighbor’s house,” she said.

A few miles away, firefighters remained on Cloud Lane just off Kenter Avenue, keeping close watch as the fire marched down a hillside toward other homes. Hand crews used chain saws, pickaxes and shovels to create a containment line they hoped would slow the fire’s spread.

Source: LA Times

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