Fires

LAFD film on the 1961 Bel-Air 'conflagration'

In November it will be 50 years since one of the city's scariest fire storms burned through Brentwood and Bel-Air. At least 484 homes were destroyed, and thousands of people displaced or evacuated in a hurry. The story went national in part because the canyons burned were so affluent, and in part because former Vice President Richard Nixon, in a rented house on North Bundy Drive, was among those affected. The Los Angeles Fire Department made "Design for Disaster" the following year, in the over-dramatized style of the time. (It sort of resembles "Dragnet" in tone.) Lots of gripping film footage of the fire, the Santa Monica Mountains, the LAFD in action and of city streets in 1961. It's also an excellent primer on L.A.'s relationship with fire — watch and you'll understand where the LAFD's obsession with brush clearance and red flag alerts came from.

Dennis Wilen posted a three-minute preview at Brentwood Patch and writes: "When Bel Air and Brentwood burned in 1961 I was a kid back east and never even knew. But I just watched a faded documentary made a year after the blaze, and now I'll never forget."

The official LAFD report calls it the Los Angeles Brush Area Conflagration of Nov. 6-7, 1961. Here's the LAFD Historical Society account.

Video source: Archive.org


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