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Fire near Getty nearly contained

Posted: September 15, 2012 10:57 a.m.
Updated: September 15, 2012 10:57 a.m.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A wildfire near one of LA's best-known cultural landmarks and one of its busiest freeways proved more dramatic than destructive, as an aggressive ground and sky attack turned orange flame to white smoke within a few hours.

Firefighters expected to have the 70-acre blaze near the Getty Center art museum above Interstate 405 fully contained by Saturday morning, but a weekend of more high, dry heat, and fire danger lay ahead.

The fire broke out at about 3:30 Friday afternoon in the Sepulveda Pass on the east side of the freeway, where nearby flames, hovering smoke and a pair of closed exits brought the always difficult end-of-week commute to a near standstill.

But ground crews sprang quickly to take on the fire, and they were soon joined by five helicopters and a pair of amphibious planes dumping water that had the fire 40 percent contained with very little open flame by nightfall.

The two state-owned "Super Scooper" aircraft requested by the city sucked water from Santa Monica Bay and dropped it on the fire. The bright yellow amphibious CL215 planes can drop up to 3,000 gallons per trip.

Earlier the Getty Center, home to one of the world's major art collections that included the works of Cezanne, Rembrandt, Titian and van Gogh, evacuated visitors and staff as a precaution and closed for the night.

The museum has an array of systems and procedures to protect itself from flames, such as fire-resistant walls, a special ventilation system to keep out smoke, a complex sprinkler system and a backup reservoir.

Television news footage showed the fire in its early stages crawling down hillsides toward several large homes, some with tennis courts and swimming pools. No evacuation orders were issued though, and the houses stayed safe.

"Many of those homes have done extensive brush clearance, they've cleared it about 200 feet from those homes," fire Capt. Jaime Moore told KCAL9 television.

Breezy conditions blew the smoke over the 405, the freeway that connects West Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, where thousands of rush-hour commuters sat in their cars. The fire forced the shutdown of two busy exits, Getty Center Drive and Sepulveda Boulevard, making the rush-hour commute especially grueling.

The fire erupted near the peak of a torrid day in Los Angeles, which saw temperatures break records in several places including downtown, which hit 100 degrees.

The area around the Sepulveda Pass has burned many times, including the fierce Bel Air-Brentwood fire in 1961, one of the most destructive in Los Angeles County history.

It burned more than 6,000 acres and 484 homes, and prompted big changes in building and development in the area, such as the abandonment of wood shingle roofs, which turned homes into tinderboxes.


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