LA Tuna Fire burn map. Colors detail the spread by day.
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1. Once and for all, weekend La Tuna Fire never was LA's biggest
Mayor Eric Garcetti and Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas were flat out wrong when they said on Saturday that the fire was the biggest in acreage in the city's history — prompting crazy headlines around the world. At the time, the fire's area was considerably smaller than the catastrophic 1961 Bel Air fire. And now, with some time to research deeper, it's clear that neither this weekend's fire nor Bel Air were the city's biggest in acreage.
The biggest single fire on the LAFD's books was the Mountain Fire in November 1938. It started just inside the city limits close to Topanga Canyon and burned 11,720 acres of brush and ranchland in the city of Los Angeles — all the way to Pacific Palisades — and another 4,288 acres in county territory. (Bad year: 1938 was also the year of the massive flooding that gave us Sepulveda Dam and a concrete river.) "Approximately 24 per cent of the total area of the mountain district west of Cahuenga Avenue was burned over in this fire," the LAFD's chief at the time, R. J. Scott, wrote in his report.
The Bel Air-Brentwood fire that destroyed more than 400 homes in late 1961 has an official count of 7,270 acres in the LAFD reports. At the exact same time, in the same canyons burned by the Mountain Fire, the Santa Ynez Fire burned 8,560 acres of brush within the city limits. Some accounts argue that the two fires joined into a mammoth event that would rank as the largest single scorcher of Los Angeles acreage, but let's say they are taken separately. Either way, the weekend's La Tuna Fire is at worst the third (or fourth) biggest in terms of acreage burned in Los Angeles. And to be sure, when we limit the conversation to just acreage burned in Los Angeles, all of these fires rank as much smaller than the giant infernos in the San Gabriels and other mountains that Southern California is most known for.
As I observed on Monday, the recent fire isn't even the worst one in La Tuna Canyon in my lifetime — because no one died. All brush fires are bad, but we may as well be accurate for historic purposes, since at some point there will be a bigger and more destructive calamity that begs for comparison. By the way, I'm not sure how this is an "investigation," but NBC4's I-Team reports that an LAFD helicopter made an emergency landing on the athletic field at Verdugo Hills High School while fighting the La Tuna fire.
Separately, check out this aerial video of the La Tuna Fire fight.
2. Leslie Van Houten has not been paroled
Meanwhile: Terrazas announced Wednesday that the LAFD urban rescue task force that has been on flood duty in Houston started home, only to be turned around by FEMA and ordered to stage in Alabama in case they are needed to help areas hit by Hurricane Irma. Be safe out there.