Los Angeles: A large fire burned in Griffith Park, the largest urban park in the nation, on Tuesday and early this morning, scorching more than 600 acres and forcing the evacuation of a few hundred people and landmarks such as the zoo and recently refurbished observatory.
The fire made for dramatic images as towering flames devoured hillsides and brush in large pockets of the 4,200-acre park, a hilly expanse in the middle of the city between Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley. It is beloved by residents for ribbons of hiking trails and commanding views of the Hollywood sign, which was not threatened, and the city below.
Nobody was reported injured except one man, who was being treated for burns and questioned by investigators for any connection to the fire, whose cause was unknown.
More than 500 firefighters in trucks, on foot and in water-dropping helicopters fought the fire, which began at 1:30 p.m. Pacific time and had appeared under control late in the afternoon. But after sunset a shift in wind scattered embers, igniting several blazes.
“The dance of this fire reminds me of how Mick Jagger dances on stage,” said city Councilman Tom LaBonge, who represents the area.
One flank was burning near but apparently not immediately threatening the observatory, where tourists flock for the views and to see the bust of James Dean commemorating the movie “Rebel Without A Cause,” which was filmed there. The observatory reopened in November after a $93 million renovation and expansion.
All year Southern California and much of the West has been on edge over brush fires because of unusually dry weather and periodic spells of hot weather. Although winds were not particularly strong here, the fire burned areas of dense vegetation that had not burned in more than 10 years in near record-breaking temperatures in the low 90s.
Griffith Park has occasionally experienced large brush fires. The city’s deadliest fire, which killed 29 workers trying to put it out, occurred there in 1933.
About 40 people were in an evacuation center at a high school in the Los Feliz neighbourhood, just south of the park, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. Other evacuees appeared to be with relatives or friends, but 25 people refused orders to leave, he said.
Fire Chief Douglas Barry said 77 engine crews had responded and, at the height of the blaze, eight water-dropping aircraft were on the scene.
“We are going to be watching the fire all night,” Mr. Barry said.
There were no reports of injuries or deaths to the animals in the zoo, but Mr. LaBonge said residents had seen wildlife such as deer scattering from the flames. A popular garden, Dante’s View, along a trail was destroyed, he said.