Griffith Park Fire A True Hollywood Event

For those that don’t know Griffith Park is a 4,000 acre oasis in the middle of L.A. proper. It is the home of the Griffith Park Observatory, the Greek Theatre, L.A. Zoo, a golf course equestrian center and kiddie play land. Dozens of miles of hiking trails wind through the park and views from the higher points are the best in the Southland.
The fire started at 1:30 pm and from my (TV) vantage point 200 miles away it looked like it was skunking for the most part and was nothing more than a curiosity. Later in the evening a major wind gust put the fire in context. It could have been bad. The TV people were excited and there was talk of the Zoo animals being evacuated. Media hysteria was setting in.

Later in the afternoon L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa conducted a press conference from the incident base. He had the L.A. Fire PIO, the police chief and other officials at his side. The mayor clearly knows nothing about fire and it showed as he fumbled with words and warned people to clear brush from their property. Then the strangest thing I ever heard from a fire base happened. A mayoral aid came to the mic and began speaking Spanish. I could not believe it. Now I could understand if the residents of the affected Los Feliz neighborhood were primarily Spanish speaking but they are not. Los Feliz is upscale and doesn’t share the same demographics as East L.A., they speak English! Bizarre, truly bizarre and tells you everything you need to know about Los Angeles politics.

The fire burned roughly 800 acres (updated) and last count there were more than 600 firefighters on scene. No structures lost. The firefighter to acre ratio could not be higher. With 6 local TV channels covering the incident it was fun to change channels to see which crews had the best views. Later in the evening I caught Chuck Henry of NBC channel 4. Chuck Henry is a great fire correspondent who always manages to get right on the line. Sometimes he gets to close as he did near lake Arrowhead in 2003 when his satellite truck burned. Had a firefighter not scooped Chuck from the road he would have died. Henry has earned his (fire) wings. Here is a link to a slideshow from NBC4 news from the Griffith Park Brushfire.

What made this a true “Hollywood” event was the grand stage. I’d estimate up to 5 million people were able to see flames by simpy walking outside of their house. If you can see the Hollywood sign or the back side of Hollywood Mountain you could see flame. If you lived in Burbank, Santa Monica, Downtown L.A or Long Beach all you had to do was look outside to see red. Quite a site for so many and doubtful there could be a more interesting venue for a fire.
The helitack people knew it too. Ordinarilly air ops stop at dusk but these helicopter pilots played on into the night. They were true action hero stars putting on a fantastic show.

Capping the night was another press conference by Mayor Villaraigosa. I actually felt sorry for him as he once again started in on the need to clear brush. He really had no clue about the fire. Everyone watching on any of the TV stations offering full coverage knew by now the threat to structures had passed. The mayor looked like an ill informed boob. In this Hollywood production he was the comic relief or tragic figure, take your pick.

Kuddos to the L.A. County and L.A. City fire crews as well as CDF support. L.A. Fire Ops. and media operations. You all put on a helluva production.


  • Mike says:

    Thanks for the kind words Paul, I hope you received the email I sent.Mike

  • Paul Whalen says:

    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blogs. I am a college student looking to pursue a career in firefighting when I graduate. I have recently been researching and blogging about firefighting, mostly dealing with what it takes to become a firefighter. I would love for you to take a look at it and tell me what you think.