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

November 15, 2008 |  2:25 pm


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