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UPDATE: Wildfire erupts in LA near I-405 amid high heat

Posted: September 14, 2012 10:21 p.m.
Updated: September 14, 2012 10:21 p.m.

Heavy smoke billows from a wildfire in the hills above the Sepulveda Pass in Los Angeles on Friday, near the Getty Center art museum, right.

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A wildfire that erupted amid scorching heat gave a scare to owners of sprawling Westside homes, cleared out the Getty Center art museum and brought the already-tangled Friday afternoon traffic on Interstate 405 to a near standstill.

The fire broke out in the hills above the Sepulveda Pass on the east side of I-405 and quickly surged to 70 acres, according to fire spokesman Cecil Manresa.

Crews aggressively attacked the blaze, and a pair of amphibious planes dumping seawater turned the flames into thin wisps of smoke by nightfall. Manresa said the fire was 40 percent contained, with just a few hotspots remaining.

Firefighters expected to declare the blaze fully contained by early Saturday.

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 in the day, 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.

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 heat, and the fire danger, were expected to continue into the weekend.

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.

Meanwhile, about 100 miles to the southeast at Camp Pendleton, five small brush fires broke out in open areas of the vast Marine base north of San Diego. Military fire crews quickly surrounded one and were working on the others. None had caused any damages or injuries.

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