By Sue Pascoe
At 4:52 a.m. Wednesday, a six-acre brush fire was reported on the east side of the 405 Freeway near the Mulholland Drive off-ramp and dubbed the Skirball Fire.
A Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) update at 5:38 a.m. said the fire had grown to 50 acres with 25 m.p.h. winds and that the northbound 405 was closed for an undetermined time with more than 125 firefighters on scene. A helicopter was making water drops.
Less than an hour later, more than 220 firefighters were at the site and mandatory evacuations had been ordered for Moraga Drive, Linda Flora Drive and Casiano Road. Those living east of the 405, Mulholland to the north, Sunset to the south and Roscomare to the east were asked to be prepared to evacuate. At 7:30 a.m., about 700 homes in that area were given mandatory evacuation notices.
At one point the 10 Freeway ramp to the north 405 was closed. Both north and southbound lanes of the 405 were closed as firefighters attempted to prevent the fire from jumping the freeway.
At a 9:30 a.m. update, there were 350 firefighters assigned to the Skirball Fire and six fixed-wing aircraft were being used. The wind conditions were favorable at 15 m.p.h. At that time there were four structures damages, no injuries and 150 acres burned. The southbound lanes of the 405 were reopened.
A major concern was that if the fire jumped the 405, residents near Mullholland, Sunset and Mandeville Canyon Road would need to evacuate, according to LAFD Capt. Cody Weireter.
LAUSD did not allow school to be dismissed early at Paul Revere, even though trying to evacuate 2,000 students along with homeowners also trying to flee the area might have had dire consequences. (There are roads on only two sides of the school, which is sandwiched between residences.)
UCLA classes beginning on or after 12 noon were cancelled, according to the school’s website. Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District closed schools for the day.
Around 11:30 a.m. a power outage was reported across wide portions of West Los Angeles.
The north bound lanes of the 405 were reopened around 1 p.m. At a 3 p.m. news conference, Chief Patrick Butler reported that 11 structures had been damaged, four homes destroyed, with 5% containment.
He warned that the firefighters were concerned that “Winds will come up out of the northeast and could push the fire across the freeway, that’s why we’re working to get containment.” Butler said. According to weather forecasters, winds that could gust to 40-45 m.p.h. in the coastal area are predicted to return tonight and tomorrow.
Butler warned everyone in on both sides of 405 to be familiar with Ready, Set, Go, system.
Many Palisadians told the News that they had already packed a bag because they remember the November 1961 Bel-Air Fire that started as a brush fire, was fanned by hot Santa Ana winds, and destroyed 484 homes while burning more than 16,900 acres. Palisades residents also remember the 1978 brush fire that swept from Mandeville Canyon through the hills from north of the Palisades village, and even destroyed the church building at St. Matthew’s.
As one firefighter said in an earlier interview with the News, “When the winds come up, all bets are off.”
Visit the city’s emergency management department website for the latest updates and steps to take. Red flag parking restrictions are in effect by LAFD. The Los Angeles Unified School District will continue to update its list of affected schools on this website.
Pack Your Bag
When you are asked to evacuate, take a pre-packed bag that may include will/trust documents, power of attorney, insurance policies, recent tax return, copies of birth/marriage certificates, social security cards, passports, list of prescriptions, emergency cash, safe-deposit keys, driver’s license, computer user names and passwords and checking and saving account numbers (and any other valuable documents that are not in your save-deposit box).
In addition to important paperwork, your save-deposit box should have inventory and photographs of valuable possessions for insurance purposes.
Make sure each family member has a sleeping bag/blankets and a change of clothing. Put your pets in carriers to make sure they are not frightened and run away.
Ready! Set! Go!
(From the LAFD Website)
Using these three words you can prepare your own Wildfire Action Plan and be prepared should a wildfire threaten your home.
You can help protect your property by creating defensible space around your home. That means removing brush for a minimum of 100 feet. Be sure there are no tree limbs hanging over your house and the roof and gutters are free of leaves, pine needles and other debris. Make sure ornamental shrubbery is set back from the sides of your home and that leaves under them are cleared away. One of the most common dangers in a wildfire is free-falling embers landing in these places and igniting your home.
Replace shake-shingle roofs with tile or other fire-resistant materials. Use fire-safe building materials when constructing or remodeling your home and plant fire-resistant landscaping.
Assemble emergency supplies and prepare a list of the things you want to take with you if you need to evacuate. Remember to think about things like cash, medications, phone chargers, computers and food for your pets. Plan your escape routes; you should know at least two different ways out of your neighborhood.
If a wildfire threatens your neighborhood, act immediately. Back your vehicle into the driveway with the hood (front) facing the street. Next, roll up the windows, and load your vehicle with everything you want to take with you. Make certain your valuables are either in your vehicle, or are safety stored in a (fireproof) safe.
Remove flammable materials from around your house. This includes patio furniture, firewood, decorations and anything else that could catch fire. Then monitor the news, your fire department’s website, and MySafe:LA for information regarding the fire.
In the past, the LAFD and other city agencies suggested residents await evacuation instructions prior to leaving their homes. The latest information suggests that you should not wait to be told to leave. Go early! If you’ve followed the suggestions noted here in the MySafe: LA website, as well as those related publications on the subject, you’ve already done what you can to protect your home and property. Firefighters need room in which to work. By leaving, you give them the best chance to protect your property.