Firefighters Battle Blaze in Historic L.A. Park

A Los Angeles City firefighter signals to his colleagues as a brush fire burns. i i

A Los Angeles City firefighter signals to his colleagues as a brush fire burns in the city's sprawling Griffith Park. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
A Los Angeles City firefighter signals to his colleagues as a brush fire burns.

A Los Angeles City firefighter signals to his colleagues as a brush fire burns in the city's sprawling Griffith Park.

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

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Los Angeles firefighters were making progress on Wednesday in containing a fast-moving brushfire that swept through Griffith Park, forcing evacuations of the park and nearby homes and disrupting traffic.

Helicopters and two fixed-wing aircraft were being used to make water drops over the fire that was moving through rugged brush-covered hills in sprawling Griffith Park. More than 200 firefighters were trying to put out the blaze, which was apparently triggered by unseasonably warm temperatures.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Monday night that the fire was being contained thanks to the quick response of the firefighters.

"We should all be thankful ... for the expertise ... and the courage that they demonstrate," he said.

The fire forced officials to place most of the Los Angeles Zoo's 1,200 animals into holding quarters.

"So far the animals are faring fine," said Jason Jacobs, director of marketing and public relations for the zoo. "I haven't heard any reports of anything going wrong."

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the 600-acre fire had been about 40 percent contained.

The wildfire at Griffith Park — a mix of wilderness, cultural venues and trails nestled between Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley — was just one that firefighters were battling across the nation. Other fires were burning in northeastern Minnesota and northern Florida and one massive blaze in southeastern Georgia was being called the largest in that state's history.

At the park's Autry National Center, which includes a museum of western artifacts, staff threw tarps over the collections to protect them in case the sprinkler system went off, said Faith Raiguel, chief operating officer.

The fire destroyed Dante's View, a trailside terraced garden on Mount Hollywood, said City Councilman Tom LaBonge. "This is a very sad night for Los Angeles," he told the AP.

Elsewhere in the region, a 300-acre fire near California State University at San Bernardino was 75 percent contained. There were no reports of damages or injuries.

Written by Scott Neuman with reporting from Carrie Kahn and Associated Press.

Griffith Park Fire Stirs Visions of 1933 Destruction

More than 29 workers perished in the fire, while 150 others were injured. i i

More than 29 workers perished in the fire, while 150 others were injured. A temporary morgue was set up to handle the bodies, mourning relatives and the press. USC Regional History Center hide caption

itoggle caption USC Regional History Center
More than 29 workers perished in the fire, while 150 others were injured.

More than 29 workers perished in the fire, while 150 others were injured. A temporary morgue was set up to handle the bodies, mourning relatives and the press.

USC Regional History Center
In October 1933, a small brush fire grew to be one of the city's most destructive fires i i

In October 1933, a small brush fire broke out near the Los Angeles Zoo in Griffith Park. Its flames grew until it became one of the largest and most destructive fires in the city's history. USC Regional History Center hide caption

itoggle caption USC Regional History Center
In October 1933, a small brush fire grew to be one of the city's most destructive fires

In October 1933, a small brush fire broke out near the Los Angeles Zoo in Griffith Park. Its flames grew until it became one of the largest and most destructive fires in the city's history.

USC Regional History Center

The fire that raged through Griffith Park in Los Angeles on Wednesday, burning hundreds of acres, recalled shades of similar destruction nearly 74 years ago.

In October 1933, flames broke out near the Los Angeles Zoo, destroying much of the historic park in what was widely considered the worst fire in the city's history. More than 29 workers died and 150 others were injured, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department's historical archive.

The blaze started out as a small brush fire; it burned for about an hour before the wind shifted, rapidly fanning its flames. It eventually would spread through 47 of the park's 4,200 acres, according to the Glendale News Press' 1993 account.

Some 3,784 workers were in the park that day, Oct. 3, 1933; many were performing small jobs offered through a government welfare program that helped find employment for those suffering through the Great Depression, according to the News Press.

Frank Shearer, a park commissioner, was the first to discover the fire.

"When Shearer arrived at the source of the fire, he found a pile of debris burning under an oak tree," a News Press article said. "He believed the debris was a pack rat's nest, although he found an empty coffee can and a paper sack nearby."

Workers nearby were asked to help extinguish the fire. But without firefighting training – and with only their hands, shovels and the earth to assist them – they were unable to stop it from gaining energy, according to reports. Some of the workers set backfires in an effort to control the blaze, but their attempts failed. Many of the men ended up trapped in a canyon, unable to find their way out before the flames engulfed them.

Griffith Park is known as a place for recreation and hiking, as well as events. Throughout its history, its main attractions have been the observatory, Greek theater, zoo, merry-go-round, and Dante's View, which was reportedly destroyed in Wednesday's fire.

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