Dangerous wildfire forces evacuations in Griffith Park

first_imgThe fire erupted on the second day of a heat spell. The National Weather Service said downtown hit 97 degrees, 23 degrees above normal, tying the record for the date. Humidity fell to just 9 percent during the day. The region was already woefully short of moisture, with rainfall measured downtown more than 11 inches below normal. Fire officials notified police they had detained someone, said Officer April Harding, a police spokeswoman. “We have a possible suspect in custody for the arson, this person is actually at the hospital,” she said. Authorities planned to interview a person with burns at a local hospital, police Sgt. James Zboravan said. A wildfire roiled through rugged brush-covered slopes in the city’s sprawling Griffith Park on Tuesday as dangerously windy, hot and dry conditions plagued Southern California. A towering column of smoke rose over the city as the city and county fire departments rushed 120 firefighters and five water-dropping helicopters to the park, which covers more than 4,000 acres on the hills between Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley. Neighborhoods and freeways are adjacent to much of the park. The blaze was estimated at 50 to 100 acres, including widely spaced spot fires that crawled up ridges, and engulfed trees. Smoke-filtered light cast an orange glow over downtown. “Initial reports are that it could be suspicious,” said city Fire Department spokeswoman Melissa Kelley. Rangers were evacuating the park’s Vermont Canyon area, which includes the Los Angeles Zoo, two golf facilities, a merry-go-round and a magnate school, said Jane Kolb, a city Department of Recreation and Parks spokeswoman. “We are evacuating zoo patrons. They obviously see the fire. We have their safety in mind,” said Jason Jacobs, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Zoo. He said zoo officials were evaluating the situation to determine if any other action would be needed. Fire Capt. Rex Vilaubi said the evacuations were voluntary and the areas were not in imminent danger of being overrun. The Autry National Center, which includes a museum of Western artifacts, was evacuated. Staff threw tarps over its collection of memorabilia and artifacts to protect them in case the sprinkler system went off, said Faith Raiguel, chief operating officer. “We can see the fire from here … it’s up the hill,” she said. “It looks really dark and evil and ominous,” Brian Wotring, 35, catering manager at the museum cafe, said before jumping into his car. “It looks really scary.” Firefighters stopped flames from advancing toward the Los Feliz neighborhood on the south edge of the park, Kelley said. The Griffith Observatory also was ordered evacuated, said Mark Pine, the facility’s deputy director. Heavy smoke and debris may have caused a momentary drop in power in a high voltage transmission line that runs by the park, said Joe Ramallo, a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power spokesman. The dip in power was observed around downtown as energy was rerouted to other transmission lines, Ramallo said. In March a fire burned 150 acres of brush in Griffith Park. Authorities said it was started by two boys playing with fire. To the south in San Diego County, a 750-acre brush fire burned on a remote area of the Camp Pendleton Marine base. The fire broke out Monday night during training in a target practice area. No buildings were nearby and nobody was injured, camp Fire Inspector Bill Gick said. The fire “was smoldering,” Gick said. “It’s stationary and not going anywhere.” In neighboring Orange County, a 140-acre fire in Featherly Regional Park was 70 percent contained. Several daily heat records were broken Monday. Among them, Los Angeles International Airport recorded a high of 88, beating the 80-degree record set in 1984. — Associated Press Writers Daisy Nguyen, Robert Jablon, Jeremiah Marquez, Solvej Schou and Greg Risling contributed to this report.165Let’s talk business.Catch up on the business news closest to you with our daily newsletter. Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more