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Is the Sylmar fire the worst since Bel Air in 1961?


Until now, many considered the 1961 Bel Air fire as L.A.'s worst. But today, with the Sylmar fire burning at least 600 mobile homes, that might be changing. Here's background on the Bel Air inferno from the L.A. Fire Department:

During the week of November 6, 1961, the City of Los Angeles was visited by the most disastrous brush fire in the history of Southern California. Lashing out from a point of origin high on the north slope of the Santa Monica Mountains, the fire raced through tinder-dry vegetation to the summit, leaped across Mulholland Drive and raged down the south slope into Stone Canyon on a rapidly widening front. Driven savagely before fifty-mile-per-hour winds, the flames sped on 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 thousands of burning brands aloft to deposit them far in advance of the main fire front. Natural and manmade barriers were utterly incapable of interrupting the progress of the fire under such adverse conditions. Before the wild rush of this roaring destruction was finally subdued, 6,090 acres of valuable watershed had been c consumed. Infinitely more tragic was the incineration of 484 costly residences and 21 other buildings.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky made the comparison at a press conference. “Whether you live in a mobile home park or you live in an estate, when you lose your home it’s devastating,” Yaroslavsky said.

--Shelby Grad

Photo: Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (10)

At least 10 fire fighters lost their lives in the 1966 Loop Fire near the site of today's Sayre Fire.

Can we quit referring to them as "mobile homes", as if they aren't simply "homes"?

I lived at 13857 Almetz, Sylmar during the 1966 Novemeber fire. In terms of lives lost that fire was far worse. We lost 13 El Cariso Hot Shots in that fire. The El Cariso Reginal Park was a memorial to those who lost their lives. I also made it through the 1971 Earthquake where we lost 40 percent of the houses on Almetz.If your looking for action Sylmar is the place to live.

The LAFD needs to update its infomation about the Bel Aire fire being "the disastrous brush fire in the history of Southern California." The 2003 Cedar Fire in San Diego County (which IS part of Southern California, although many media outlets in LA seem to forget that fact.) burned many, many more acres, destroyed far more homes and affected far more people. The fire was only controlled after the wind reversed on itself and moved away from the San Diego coast. If the wind had not reversed, it would have burned to the coast, covering some of the most expensive property in Southern California: La Jolla and Del Mar included.

A home is not just the building, that can be replaced, but it is all the things we have collected during our life times.

As bad as this fire is, comparisons almost always forget the Oakland hills fire on about 15-20 years ago. Over 3,000 house burned, and almost no one in the rest of the country ever heard of the fire because the media didn't cover it. It started in the Oakland hills and spread to the flatlands of Oakland/Berkeley and could have been even more catastrophic except the Santa Ana Wind then died. If is supposed to be the 2nd worst fire in US history - after the Chicago fire.

The 1961 Bel-Air burned into our backyard. Our house sat on a ridge top, on Linda Flora Drive (we referred to the houses on upper Linda Flora and Roscomare Road and Stradella Drive, more modest than the more upscale homes nearby, as Shanty Town Bel-Air).

I remember well watching planes drop water into Hog Canyon, behind and below our home. I remember the completely scorched hillsides when we returned to our home the morning after the fire. I remember how it looked to see some 4o or fifty homes burned to the ground on Roscomare, and there were many lost on Stradella. Not a single home was lost on our street, in part because neighbors stayed behind and watered down roofs, including our own.

Just a little tidbit on "mobile homes". They're named after Mobile Alabama where they were created.


The fact that you say the media didn't cover the Oakland fires is completely inaccurate - check the facts - A pulitzer was awarded for photography - "The Great Fire" was a National Book Award winner - numerous emmy awards for local coverage

Dave Wyman, that's "Hoag" Canyon.


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