Bel Air News
Bel Air Once A Hurricane Of Fire
By Krystle Hudson
Nov 7, 2011 - 2:30:10 AM

BEL AIR—The Los Angeles Fire Department fought the most tragic brush fire in history on November 6, 1961 at about 8:30 a.m. The fire began at the north slope of the Santa Monica Boulevard Mountains and spread wildly toward Mulholland Drive, then to Stone Canyon. Driven by high-power winds moving at 50 miles per hour, the canyons of Los Angeles became engulfed by a "hurricane of fire," as firefighters call it. This year marks the 50th anniversary of that fire.

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Wildfire of Bel Air and Brentwood. Photo courtesy of LAFD Museum.
While this fire was blazing throughout the city, a second fire was ignited by an unknown suspect, according to reports. The fire, which was a mile east of Stone Canyon, was put out by air tankers before it spread too far. A third fire sparked just seven miles off the Stone Canyon area near Topanga Canyon.

The LAFD fought to put out the blaze while embers from the fire spread to several wood-shaken shingle homes in the area. There were homes that burned from the roof down. One of the homes that was affected by the blaze was on Roscomare and Anzio Road. The roof began to collapse as firemen tried to save the interior of the home.

The fire station Engine 92 enforced a hit-and-run tactic as they passed Bel Air homes and doused every wood-shaken shingle roof in the city, later ending up in Brentwood. This was a sign that these wood-shaken shingles were a contributor to the blaze.

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Fire Station Engine 92 putting out blaze on Roscomare and Anzio Road. Photo courtesy of LAFD Museum.
According to reports, the L.A. County Fire Department provided six engines, six camp crews and many additional resources to help staff the L.A. Fire stations. There were 400 additional firefighters on standby as well. Also, 250 National Guard soldiers supported the LAPD as citizens became weary and looting became a great deal of worry.

At the time of the blaze, a large evacuation took place that involved 300 police officers guiding more than 3,500 residents out of the city of Bel Air. By the afternoon of November 7, 2,500 firefighters were working on putting out this massive blaze. It was not until the morning of November 8 that the LAFD were finally able to contain the wildfire. It took 12 aerial tankers dropping fire retardant in the air to put out the blaze.

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Fireman Borden 50 years later at Roscomare and Anzio Road. Photo courtesy of LAFD Museum.
About a dozen firefighters were injured from tar drippings of the blazed homes. Three firemen from Los Angeles were taken to the UCLA Medical Center to be treated for non-life threatening injuries. As a result of the blaze, 484 homes were destroyed, 190 others were damaged and 16,090 acres were burned.

The cost of the damage financially in 1961 was roughly $30 million, according to reports. Half a century later, the home on Roscomare and Anzio has since been rebuilt by the same family that lived there before. Since that fire, wood-shaken shingles have been outlawed in the city of L.A., and a Brush Clearance Program has been initiated that inspects government-owned lands by a certified private contractor.  

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