50 Years Ago: Bel Air a 'Hurricane of Fire'

Friday, November 04, 2011 |

On November 6, 1961, the City of Los Angeles was visited by one of the most disastrous brush fires in Southern California history.

Lashing out from a point of origin high on the north slope of the Santa Monica Mountains, the flames raced through tinder-dry vegetation to the summit, leaped across Mulholland Drive and raged southward into Stone Canyon on a rapidly widening front - in terrain and weather described as a "design for disaster"...

Driven savagely by fifty-mile-per-hour winds, the flames sped south and westward. The canyons and ridges of the coastal slope became engulfed in a veritable hurricane of fire. Thermal air currents, created by the intense heat, coupled with the high velocity winds swirled countless burning brands aloft to deposit them far in advance of the main fire front.

Natural and man-made barriers proved utterly incapable of interrupting the progress of the fire under such adverse conditions, noted in this vintage video from KTLA-TV:

Before the wild rush of this roaring destruction was finally subdued, 6,090 acres of valuable watershed had been consumed. Infinitely more tragic was the incineration of 484 costly residences and 21 other buildings. Amazingly however, no one was killed.

As this great fire gained in intensity, a second blaze was criminally ignited in Benedict Canyon which lies a mile to the east of Stone Canyon...

To learn more about the Bel-Air/Brentwood and Santa Ynez wildfires - including a stirring personal account from an LAFD member who fought them, visit:


Submitted by Brian Humphrey, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department


Woody McBreairty said...

Hard to believe it's been 50 years

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