National News

Blaze Breaks Out Near Getty Center in Los Angeles

Posted December 6, 2017 11:52 a.m. EST

LOS ANGELES — A brush fire erupted on the west side of Los Angeles before dawn Wednesday, threatening some of the city’s priciest homes and blocking traffic on one of its busiest freeways, while a much larger fire continued to rage out of control in the Ventura area.

The Ventura fire, which broke out Monday, had grown to 65,000 acres by Wednesday morning and continued to burn unabated, according to Cal Fire, the state firefighting agency. The fire had destroyed at least 150 structures, and possibly many more, state officials said, and 12,000 buildings were threatened.

Evacuation orders covering thousands of people were in effect for parts of the city of Ventura and surrounding communities, and Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency. The fire forced the closure of parts of U.S. Route 101, along with many smaller roads.

The new fire ignited before 5 a.m. Wednesday, near Interstate 405 in the Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles, and quickly grew to about 50 acres. Authorities closed the northbound lanes of the interstate, one of the major links between the bulk of the city and the San Fernando Valley, and ordered the evacuation of the area just east of the freeway, from Sunset Boulevard to Mulholland Drive — a distance of almost 4 miles.

Abe Hagigat, 61, woke up to a call from a neighbor early Wednesday, warning that he and his family should be prepared to evacuate from their home near Bel Air. By 7:30 a.m., the family had packed their car and Hagigat stood outside watering his roof, while comparing plans with another neighbor.

Hagigat said they would wait until they received official orders to leave, just as they did during another fire several years ago.

“We’ve all been through this before,” he said. “We stay calm, do what they tell us, and pray.”

His wife and daughter had filled their car with photographs.

“That’s really all that really matters,” he said.

In 1961, a fire ripped through Bel Air and destroyed almost 500 homes, including many belonging to celebrities, and prompted the adoption of new fire codes, including rules about clearing brush around buildings.

The blaze Wednesday posed a risk of jumping across the highway, where it would threaten the Getty Center museum and the Brentwood neighborhood.

The fires were being driven by high winds, which were expected to strengthen through Wednesday and Thursday, with gusts of 60 mph, making firefighting conditions much more difficult.

California has seen some of its most destructive fires ever this year. In October, as more than a dozen fires broke out in the northern part of the state, a separate one quickly grew in Anaheim Hills, burning through thousands of acres. The fires have collectively killed more than 40 people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses.