BEL AIR—A mandatory evacuation was issued Wednesday, December 6 for residents in Bel Air as the Skirball Fire continued to burn along the 405 freeway.
More than 40,000 residents were impacted by the order. The Skirball Fire is presently burning in the hills east of the 405 freeway near the Getty Center. It has spread over an estimated 475 acres so far, according to reports. It has destroyed more than four structures and damaged roughly a dozen others.
Los Angeles Fire Department Spokesperson Brian Humphrey tweeted Wednesday morning, “MANDATORY EVACUATION ORDER – Brush Fire; 7:30AM; NB 405 FY x Mulholland Dr; #SkirballFire #BelAir – MANDATORY EVACUATION NOW IN EFFECT – All locations within these boundaries: South of Mulholland Dr / East of 405 Fwy / North of Sunset Blvd / West of Roscomare Rd.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti declared a state of emergency Wednesday morning as more than 300 firefighters and six fixed-wing aircraft worked to combat the inferno. The fire erupted at approximately 4 a.m. Wednesday. “Very strong winds coming from the northeast to the southwest blowing [caused the] fire [to spread] quickly,” stated Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti during a press conference.
The ongoing Santa Ana winds caused the conflagration to spread quickly throughout the area, igniting vast swathes of lands before firefighters could effectively respond. As of 5:15 p.m., the LAFD reported that the wildfire is 475 acres and only 5 percent is contained. There were presently more than 300 LAFD firefighters assigned to what is called the “Skirball Fire,” with resources from allied agencies supporting the firefight to battle a brush fire near the northbound I-405 and Mulholland Drive.
LAFD Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas discussed the similar nature of the current wildfire, with the Bel Air wildfire of 1961 during the press conference. He noted that brush clearance was important as was water pressure, where more than 500 homes were lost nearly 56 years ago.
Evacuation Centers are available to residents at the following locations:
-Balboa Recreation Center (17015 Burbank Blvd, Encino)
-Delano Recreation Center (15100 Erwin St, Van Nuys)
-Westwood Recreation Center (1350 S Sepulveda Bl)
-Van Nuys Recreation Center (14301 Vanowen St)
-Cheviot Hills Recreation Center (2551 Motor Ave, Cheviot Hills)
“Ready, Set Go! The people in this area and all areas in the city that have a brush fire threat need to continually monitor the media. That is TV, radio and all social platforms,” said Terrazas.
The wildfire forced the closure of the 405 earlier in the day and forced evacuations across the region. The Getty Museum is close to the flames and in danger of catching fire. Both the museum and the Getty Villa were closed to the public on Wednesday.
Ron Hartwig, the Getty’s president of communications, informed the public “we have very sophisticated air filtration systems that keep smoke from invading the galleries and protecting the art, but obviously heavy traffic in and out of the galleries, opening and shutting the doors, compromises that system, and that’s why the decision was made to close to the public.
In a morning news conference, Los Angeles Councilman Paul Koretz stated “This is a tragic event. If you are in a mandatory evacuation area, grab your family and animals and go now.”
“We are losing some properties but the most important this is people’s lives. Any homes that can be saved will be saved,” he added.
The southbound lanes of the I-405 re-opened at around 9 a.m., and the northbound lanes at around 1:30 p.m.
Celebrities took to social media to respond to the wildfires. Comedian Chelsea Handler tweeted:
“Just evacuated my house. It’s like Donald Trump is setting the world on fire. Literally and figuratively. Stay safe everyone. Dark times.”
“This wild fire in LA is terrifying! My house is now being evacuated to get all of my pets out of there safely. Thank you to all the firefighters who are risking their lives to save ours. You are true heroes!,” Paris Hilton tweeted, including video of the actual wildfire.
The city of Beverly Hills issued an e-notice alert that the city did not anticipate the Skirball Fire being an immediate threat to residents, but noted that they should still have emergency plans in place in case the blaze were to shift direction.
The National Weather Service predicts high winds will likely continue into Friday, which will hamper firefighting efforts. Personnel of the Los Angeles Fire Department have been preoccupied continuing to battle the ongoing fire in San Fernando Valley, which has now consumed more than 10,000 acres.
Written By Dylan Gera, George Morris and Casey Jacobs