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first_imgResidents were being directed to Marshall High School, which was being converted into an evacuation center. Hundreds of city and county firefighters aided by water-dropping helicopters tried to douse the flames in record-setting heat, which threw up an eerie orange glow that could be seen for miles. “We have to keep those helicopters up tonight and put water on this fire,” said Los Angeles City Fire Capt. Antoine McKnight. “We have firefighters putting their lives on the line … doing a good job to attack this fire.” An estimated 2,000 Department of Water and Power customers were without power in the area after fire destroyed power lines. Many residents were unable to hear broadcasts warning them of the danger because of the power outage. Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge reported that Dante’s View, a scenic garden popular with hikers, had been destroyed. Firefighters also were scrambling to protect the Greek Theatre, where a command post was established, and the newly refurbished Griffith Observatory. Earlier in the day, hot winds whipped flames up and down rugged hillsides. About 160 firefighters battled the fast-moving blaze on foot and with nine water-dropping aircraft, said interim Los Angeles City Fire Chief Douglas Barry. “We want to get it primarily knocked down before it gets dark,” Barry said at a news conference Tuesday evening. The interim chief said the fire was 30 percent contained and that he was confident that if the winds did not pick up too much, fire crews could contain the blaze sometime Tuesday night. “The wind is going to be a major factor regarding what happens (today),” Barry said. Zoo visitors and nonessential staff were evacuated, but the animals remained with their keepers, the zoo said. There were no evacuations of neighboring residential areas. Smoke from the fire, which started about 1:20 p.m. near the Franklin D. Roosevelt Golf Course, rose above the city and could be seen for miles. Firefighters battled one primary blaze and a number of hotspots that started by blown embers. Tinder-dry brush and hot temperatures aggravated efforts to control the blaze. The media reported various causes of the fire, including a golfer who threw a cigarette into the brush, a homeless man who fell asleep while smoking and a hiker playing with matches. Police would say only that a 20-year-old man, who was being treated for burns at a local hospital, was detained for questioning. Los Angeles police spokeswoman Marjan Mobasser said no arrests had been made and no other injuries were reported. “Initial reports are that (the fire) could be suspicious,” LAFD spokeswoman Melissa Kelley said. Roads to the 4,200-acre park were closed as well as freeway exits near the park along Interstate 5. Rangers evacuated about 1,000 people from the park, many near the Vermont Canyon area, which includes the zoo, two golf facilities, a merry-go-round and a magnet school, said Jane Kolb, a city Department of Recreation and Parks spokeswoman. “We are evacuating zoo patrons. They obviously see the fire. We have their safety in mind,” said Jason Jacobs, a zoo spokesman. The zoo also sent nonessential personnel home around 3 p.m., but zookeepers, curators and operations workers remained in case an animal evacuation was needed. “When this started it was black and billowing, so you couldn’t even see the helicopters when they flew through,” Jacobs said. “Now, it’s starting to clear up, so hopefully, that’s a good sign.” He said zoo officials were evaluating the situation to determine if any other action would be needed. The Autry National Center, which includes a museum of Western artifacts, also was evacuated, Kelley said. City Councilman Tom LaBonge said the fire started in Aberdeen Canyon near the Roosevelt Golf Course and quickly spread to an area that had not burned in many years. He said it was the fifth fire in Griffith Park since December. In March, a fire burned 150 acres of brush in the park. Authorities said it was started by two boys playing with fire. The park and the surrounding hills are home to coyotes, deer and even mountain lions. Several deer escaped the smoke and fire and sought a shady, grassy refuge on the golf course. Blandine Damaskin was house-sitting for a friend in a tony Los Feliz neighborhood near the Greek Theatre when the flames came within view. “I’m not panicking because it is not my style,” Damaskin said. “But (my friend) has valuable things in her home. If this goes bad I’m supposed to take a few things out and run with it.” Fred Hall, a tree surgeon supervisor with the Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation, first noticed the fire after 1 p.m. from across the Golden State Freeway. He said that one forestry crew was close enough to feel the heat of the flames but evacuated without a problem. Though the fire threatened the Franklin D. Roosevelt Municipal Golf Course, Hall said it appeared to have stayed on the hill without damaging the greens. “I smelled smoke and knew it had to be a fire,” Hall said. “It was too strong to be a barbecue. … When we took a look, the whole hillside was ablaze going down toward the 5 Freeway.” LAFD Capt. Brian Sandwick stood at Crystal Springs Road on the park’s south side, where his crew had been battling 10-foot-high flames. “The wind is shifting, and when that happens, fire is very erratic,” he said. “Because of the erratic winds, we don’t want to drop our guard.” When asked if this was a sign of a bad fire season ahead, Sandwick nodded and said, “This is only May.” Staff writer Eugene Tong contributed to this story. [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! GRIFFITH PARK – A firestorm roared Tuesday night across the tinder-dry hills of Griffith Park, jeopardizing city landmarks and forcing the evacuation of neighborhoods in nearby Los Feliz. The fire, which may have been intentionally set, started about 1:30 p.m., prompting evacuations of the Los Angeles Zoo, Autry Museum and nearby golf courses, and sending smoke billowing over Los Angeles’ skyline. The fire flared at sundown and spread quickly, blackening hundreds of acres as flames headed toward homes. Authorities worked to evacuate residents, who crowded the narrow winding roads as they fled with their most prized possessions. “I’m scared and nobody can predict where the fire is going,” said Chang Song, who lived on Commonwealth Avenue and was carrying family photos to his car. “So long as the humans are OK, you can rebuild the house.” last_img read more