Firefighters putting out massive Griffith Park blaze

Nearby homes evacuated; hundreds of firefighters, helicopters scrambled.

wildfire 88 (photo credit: )
wildfire 88
(photo credit: )
Firefighters said they were making major progress against a wildfire that roared across brush-covered hills in Los Angeles' sprawling Griffith Park on Tuesday, triggering evacuations of homes and of some of the city's most famous landmarks. A wall of flames raced across ridges and jumped fire lines late in the evening as the fire drew closer to homes and the Griffith Observatory, one of the locations for the 1955 film "Rebel Without a Cause." Hundreds of firefighters and five water-dropping helicopters rushed to the landmark park - a mix of wilderness, cultural venues, horse and hiking trails and recreational facilities set on more than 4,000 acres on the hills between Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley. Interim Fire Chief Douglas L. Barry said late Tuesday that the fire had "laid down" and that authorities hoped an aggressive attack in the morning would bring it under control sometime Wednesday. Late Tuesday, authorities called for a mandatory evacuation of homes that sit along the park's southern edge as the fire burned out of control. Helicopters flew dangerous water-dropping missions after dark and no homes were lost by late evening. Residents helped direct traffic through tight neighborhood streets. "I was just able to get a few things," said Ed Stephan, 83, who helped his wife into their car as ashes fell from the sky. "We're not too worried but want to get out of here and observe the law." More than 200 residents were expected at an evacuation center, said fire Capt. Antoine McNight. The fire destroyed Dante's View, a trailside terraced garden on Mount Hollywood, said City Councilman Tom LaBonge. "This is a very sad night for Los Angeles," he said. Rangers evacuated the park's Vermont Canyon area, which includes the Los Angeles Zoo, two golf facilities, a merry-go-round and school, said Jane Kolb, a city Department of Recreation and Parks spokeswoman. Fire Capt. Rex Vilaubi said the evacuations were voluntary and the areas were not in imminent danger of being overrun. The animals in the zoo were not immediately evacuated. There was no word on their condition. Nearly 1,300 utility customers lost power in Los Feliz when flames downed power lines, said Department of Water and Power spokesman Joe Ramallo. Authorities were investigating whether the fire broke out after a person discarded a cigarette at one of the park's golf courses, a law enforcement official familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing. The person tried to put out the fire but was badly burned and was taken to Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, the official said. The blaze erupted on the second day of a heat spell. The National Weather Service said downtown hit 97 degrees Fahrenheit, 23 degrees Fahrenheit above normal, tying the record for the date.