Brush fire near Getty Center in Los Angeles shuts down I-405, forces evacuations
At least 4 homes burned in LA-area Skirball Fire
Jermaine Ong , City News Service
5:32 AM, Dec 6, 2017
11:21 PM, Dec 6, 2017
(KGTV/CNS) - A fast-moving brush fire erupted Wednesday morning near the Getty Center in Los Angeles, shutting down a stretch of Interstate 405 and forcing mandatory evacuations as flames destroyed several homes.
The blaze, dubbed the Skirball Fire, erupted for unknown reasons shortly before 5 a.m. in an area off northbound Interstate 405 and Mulholland Drive, near the upscale Bel Air area.
Los Angeles Fire Department officials said the fire initially charred six acres but it expanded to at least 50 acres burned about 30 minutes later due to high winds.
As of 3 p.m., officials said the Skirball Fire has burned 475 acres with 5% containment.
The fire threatened homes toward the top of the hill on the east side of the freeway. Four homes were destroyed and two others may have been damaged, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said, but more structures could be seen burning as the fire continued its march.
About 500 firefighters were sent to battle the fire, including 350 from the LAFD. Other agencies assisting including the U.S. Forest Service. Six fixed-wing aircraft and a number of helicopters were deployed to the scene, Garcetti said.
"These are days that break your heart; but these are also days that show the resilience of our city," Garcetti said.
Garcetti Wednesday afternoon declared a local state of emergency in response to the fire and requested state and federal assistance.
Fire officials believe wind conditions could worsen through the remainder of the day and into the late evening.
A Red Flag warning remains in effect for the region.
The Getty Center and the nearby Skirball Center are both on the west side of the freeway, and did not appear to be threatened. Both were closed for the day, as was Santa Monica College and all schools in the Santa Monica-Malibu school district. Getty Center officials said Wednesday that famous works of art were safe.
Shortly after 6 a.m., mandatory evacuations were ordered for Moraga Drive, Linda Flora Drive, and Casiano Road, down to Bellagio Road, according to the LAFD. The evacuation order was later expanded, covering a large area bounded by Mulholland Drive to the north, Sunset Boulevard to the south, the 405 to the west and Roscomare Road on the east.
The exception to the evacuation order was the Bel Air Crest housing development, which was not threatened, Garcetti said.
About 100 officers from the Los Angeles Police Department were sent to the neighborhood to handle evacuation orders, said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.
Citywide, about 600 officers were assigned to coordinate security and various "firefighting events," Beck said.
Evacuation centers have been established at Delano Recreation Center, 15100 Erwin St., Van Nuys; Balboa RC, 17015 Burbank Blvd., Van Nuys; Sherman Oaks RC, 14201 Huston St., Sherman Oaks; and Westwood RC, 1350 Sepulveda Blvd., Westwood.
According to the Bloomberg News, a 7,500-square-foot home and winery owned by Fox News CEO Rubert Murdoch is in the path of the fire. The property, known as the Moraga Estate, was purchased by Murdoch in 2013 for nearly $30 million.
The Hollywood Reporter said the Mandeville and Bel Air neighborhoods, where celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Dr. Dre and Jennifer Aniston live, are among the areas that have been evacuated.
After the fire began, the northbound lanes of I-405 were closed at Bel Air Crest Road all the way back to Olympic Boulevard in West Los Angeles. Firefighting crews set up on the southbound side of I-405 to prevent the fire from jumping the freeway, and northbound vehicles were being turned back.
Shortly before 7 a.m., the California Highway Patrol closed the entire I-405 freeway between the Ventura (101) Freeway and the Santa Monica (10) Freeway, along with on-ramps and off-ramps and freeway transition roads in the affected area. The closure led to massive congestion on many streets in the San Fernando Valley and in West Los Angeles.
About 9 a.m., the southbound freeway was reopened, but some onramps and offramps remained closed in the area, as was a section of Mulholland Drive, the CHP reported.
REVISED: UCLA remains open. Students who are on campus should report to class as normal. Students, faculty and staff off campus should only come if safely able. More at UCLA Newsroom https://t.co/Lac5zkXxhh
The fire was burning in the same general area as the devastating Bel Air Fire of 1961. That blaze destroyed about 500 homes and led to various policy changes, including a prohibition on wood-shingle roofs and the strict requirement to remove brush from around properties.
No injuries have been reported as a result of the fire.