Published: December 7, 2017
VENTURA, CALIF. (AP) — A dramatic new wildfire erupted in Los Angeles early on December 6 as firefighters battled three other destructive blazes across southern California.
Flames exploded before dawn on the steep slopes of Sepulveda Pass, which carries heavily traveled Interstate 405 through the Santa Monica Mountains where ridge tops are covered with expensive homes.
Firefighters were providing structure protection as helicopters flying in darkness made water drops on the flames on the east side of the pass. Northbound traffic was halted, but southbound lanes remained open.
Hundreds of homes burned in the area during the famous Bel Air Fire of 1961. The Getty Center art complex, on the west side of the pass, employs extensive fire protection methods.
Elsewhere, use of firefighting aircraft has been constrained by the same winds that have spread the fires.
The water-dropping planes and helicopters essential to taming and containing wildfires have been mostly grounded because it’s too dangerous to fly them in the strong wind. On December 5, gusts of over 50 mph were recorded.
Commanders hoped to have them back in the air the morning of December 6, but all indications were that the winds would be whipping then too, fanning the flames that spurred evacuation orders for nearly 200,000 people, destroyed nearly 200 homes and remained mostly out control.
“The prospects for containment are not good,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said at a news conference on December 5. “Really, Mother Nature’s going to decide when we have the ability to put it out.”
[Editor’s note: On the Getty’s website the following message was posted: “The Getty Center and the Getty Villa will be closed Wednesday, December 6, and Thursday December 7, to protect the collections from smoke from fires in the region.” TMZ quoted Getty spokesman Ron Hartwig saying, “The Getty was built and designed to withstand fires given its fire-prone location on a ridge of the Santa Monica Mountains. The exterior is made of travertine stone and metal, which would make it very difficult for fire to penetrate.”]
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