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Major Emergency Brush Fire in West Hills

Monday, July 04, 2005 |

On Monday, July 4, 2005 at 6:02 PM PDT, twenty-two Companies of Los Angeles Firefighters, four Los Angeles Fire Department Helicopters, one LAFD Rescue Ambulance, one LAFD Battalion EMS Captain, five LAFD Battalion Chief Officer Command Teams and various LAFD support and investigative resources, as well as one Helicopter and two Hand Crews from the Los Angeles County Fire Department, all under the command of LAFD Assistant Chief Curtis James, responded to a Major Emergency Brush Fire southwest of Roscoe Boulevard and Valley Circle Boulevard in West Hills.

The first Company arrived quickly to discover two acres of light grass and medium brush burning steadily in wildland bordered by single-family homes.

Firefighters using handlines and hand tools scrambled up hillsides to do battle with flames which briefly threatened more than a dozen homes on three streets above the fire.

Aided by a combination of precise and timely helicopter water drops and code-compliant brush clearance by homeowners, Firefighters confined the fire to less than five acres of grass and brush, extinguishing the flames in just one hour.

There were no injuries, and none of the threatened structures sustained damage.

LAFD Arson Investigators have determined that this fire was caused by fireworks.

It is important to note that all fireworks, even the so-called “safe and sane” variety have been illegal in the City of Los Angeles for more than sixty years.


Anonymous said...

Where does one go to secure online information when fire is threatening nearby? Aside from clogging the 911 line, does the LAFD offer real-time info online?
--West Hills resident

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

When a wildfire is threatening our neighborhood, one of the least productive things we can do is go on-line.

So what to do?

The first thing to do is to calmly prepare your family for the possibility of evacuation and secure your household from advancing flames.

No one can do that effectively while seated at the computer.

If an immediate order for evacuation is to be given, it will usually be offered via loudspeaker from Police or Fire officials driving through the neighborhood or knocking on doors.

THAT is what you need to listen for!

It's also another great reason for us not to be glued to the computer.

When flames advance, we suggest calmly preparing your home and family while *listening* to news radio (AM-640 KFI, AM-980 KFWB and AM-1070 KNX for the Los Angeles area are usually good sources).

We do not suggest prolonged television viewing in effected neighborhoods for the same reason as we don't want people sitting in front of their computer: you can't be productive and remain safe in the face of advancing flames if you are sitting still and glued to the television or computer.

I trust you get the point.

*Listening* to news radio and television news while you calmly prepare is the best course of action possible.

People who call 9-1-1 to ask questions can expect to be hung up on - and rightfully so. 9-1-1 Dispatchers are there solely to help residents get emergency help, and are *very* busy during wildfires doing just that.

With fewer than a dozen Fire Department 9-1-1 call takers on duty at any given moment, there is also no way humaly possible for them to provide (constantly changing) information to the nearly 4 million people who live in Los Angeles, including the tens upon tens of thousands who would like to have their many personal questions answered in times of duress.

Many people try to reach out via the telephone to other Fire Department numbers for assistance, but given the "wild" nature of wildfires (no pun intended), there is truly no way for anyone remote from your neighborhood to predict will and will not happen.

The plan?

If you are remote from the impacted area, listen to news radio and contemplate exactly what you and your family will do should a fire impact your neighborhood.

If wildfire is imminently threatening your neighborhood, be on the lookout and listen for loudspeaker messages from Firefighters and Police Officers driving through your neighborhood, while calmly preparing your family for evacuation.

When wildfire is approaching, those who "burn" precious minutes on the internet, remain glued to their television or are dialing furiously for someone/anyone to reassure them are likely to suffer far worse consequences than those who remain cognizant and interact personally with the real-time situation outside their own front door.

Please use this LAFD web log as a resource for "nice to know" information about past fires, but please understand that it cannot offer real-time information that is highly specific to your timely life safety needs.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

Rob Monroe said...

I was honored and thrilled this 4th of July to see our Fire Department in action. We have our annual dinner with some friends in West Hills and were sitting in their back yard when we noticed that we were hearing the third fire truck pass buy. We turned around and noticed that indicative plum of smoke rising up from behind the hill above us which gave us the word in no uncertain terms, brush fire. When the 5th engine passed we decided to walk up the hill to see what was going on.

Immediately Northwest of Masefield and Strathern in West Hills (Canoga Park) there was a substantial (at least to the local homeowners) brush fire beginning. Before it was over I counted at least three engines from station 93, several from 105 and seven to ten others from stations I did not note were in attendance. There were at least 4 water dropping helicopters doing precision drops close enough to me to get me wet (well, dripped on) and possibly one from the county (yellow?).

I can not tell you strongly enough, the sight of a helicopter climbing steeply up over a hill, pulling through the smoke, trailing water from their drop with their blades cracking WHACK WHACK WHACK through the air, is a sight to see and one to bring cheers from the onlookers. I will be forever disappointed that I did not have my camera in hand. It was just OUTSTANDING.

I was overcome to see what seemed to be at least a hundred firefighters in attendance, lugging heavy hoses and weighty equipment up steep hills all so we could walk back down the road and have a wonderful Fourth of July Dinner and see some Dynamite fireworks.

I am deeply indebted to you all, and thank you.

Linda, you are my ONLY contact in the Fire Department, if you can find out and pass this on to the stations in attendance, I would appreciate it. They deserve our expressed thanks.

Rob Monroe
Woodland Hills

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Mr. Monroe:

Thank you for your kind words, which mean more than you might know.

Please rest assured that your sentiments will be forwarded to all of those Los Angeles Fire Department members who responded - both on the ground and in the air.

I will also seek to have your sentiments included in our Weekly Bulletin, which is distributed to all active and retired members.

We trust that you will always remember that we are *your* Fire Department.

In a few short weeks, the men and women of the LAFD will be conducting a torch relay through our 17th Battalion, which includes your neighborhood.

We hope that you, your family friends and neighbors will come out and cheer us on as we seek to raise funds for a permanent Memorial to our fallen Brothers and Sisters, including Jaime Foster, James Fitzpatrick, Dominic Pascal, Andrew Lechert, Benjamin Gause - each of whom died while serving residents of the West San Fernando Valley.

Please keep an eye on the LAFD Home Page at for details!

Again Mr. Monroe, thank you for the kind words. We pledge to do our utmost to remain worthy of your respect and praise.

Brian Humphrey
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

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