Los Angeles

Residents Survey Damage From Getty Fire as Arson Investigators Probe Cause

The Getty Fire began early Monday in the hills west of Los Angeles' 405 Freeway

What to Know

  • The Getty Fire started above the 405 Freeway in the Sepulveda Pass around 1:30 a.m. Monday
  • About 10,000 buildings, including commercial and residential structures, were threatened by the wind-fanned fire
  • The most severe Santa Ana winds of the season are expected later this week

A brush fire fanned by Santa Ana winds erupted in the hills above the 405 Freeway early Monday, burning homes and forcing evacuations in neighborhoods on Los Angeles' Westside. 

Firefighting helicopters and air tankers dropped steady rounds of water and retardant on the fire, which was fueled by dry brush in an area that hasn't seen rain since May. The Getty Fire quickly expanded to 500 acres. The fire cast an eerie orange glow over the 405 Freeway after it started around 1:30 a.m. and spread to the west. By the afternoon, the fire grew to 618 acres. It was only 5% contained as of Monday evening.

A cause was not immediately determined. No injuries have been reported.

At least eight homes were destroyed. 

Exit ramps on the busy freeway connecting the west San Fernando Valley with West Los Angeles were shut down through the Sepulveda Pass.

The fire burned in densely populated hillside areas with narrow roads, threatening about 10,000 residential and business structures. Embers were scattered by wind gusts. 

About 2,600 customers were without power early Monday in Bel Air, Brentwood, Westwood and other West Los Angeles communities. That figure was reduced to about 900.

The fire forced the evacuation of thousands of residents.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said the fire was not the result of a homeless encampment or any activity by homeless people in the area.

"That's not what started this but we have an active investigation right now," he said. "I can't share much more than that today."

The Getty Center and Getty Villa were not threatened.

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James tweeted that he and his family had to evacuate their home in the city's exclusive Brentwood section. There was no immediate word on its fate.

"I pray for all the families in the area that could be affected," he tweeted. "Pretty please get to safety ASAP."

Actor and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also tweeted that he evacuated. Monday night's red-carpet premiere of his latest movie, "Terminator: Dark Fate," was canceled due to the fire.

"It you are in an evacuation zone, don't screw around," Schwarzenegger tweeted. "I am grateful for the best firefighters in the world, the true action heroes who charge into the danger to protect their fellow Californians."

In Sacramento, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state has secured a Fire Management Assistance Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help ensure the availability of resources to fight the Getty Fire.

"California is grateful for the ongoing support as we battle fires up and down the state in extremely severe weather conditions," said Newsom. "I thank our heroic emergency responders and volunteers for their tireless, life-saving work to safeguard communities across the state."

The Fire Management Assistance Grant will assist local, state and tribal agencies responding to the fire to apply for 75% reimbursement of their eligible fire suppression costs.

Newsom has declared a statewide emergency due to the dangerous weather conditions, which have resulted in fires and evacuations across the state.

The governor has also secured Fire Management Assistance Grants to help ensure the availability of resources to fight the Kincade and Tick fires, for which he previously declared a state of emergency in Sonoma and Los Angeles counties.

The dry hills of the Sepulveda Pass have not had rain since May 26. 

"There's a lot of fuel out there, and it has been bone dry the last few months," said NBC4 forecaster Anthony Yanez.

The fire comes ahead of what's expected to be the strongest Santa Ana winds of the season, starting Tuesday around 11 p.m. and lasting through Thursday afternoon.

Santa Ana winds are produced by surface high pressure over the Great Basin squeezing air down through canyons and passes in Southern California's mountain ranges. 

In December 2017, an illegal cooking fire at an encampment in a brush area started the Skirball Fire. The fire spread from the encampment near Sepulveda Boulevard and the 405 Freeway and burned hundreds of acres. 

One of the worst fires in Los Angeles' history was fanned by Santa Ana winds when it burned in the Westside area in November 1961. About 480 homes were destroyed in the Bel Air Fire, which caused most of its damage on the east side of the 405 Freeway.

More than 4,870 wildfires have burned nearly 47,000 acres through mid-October in California. Last year, more than 5,100 fires burned a historic 631,900 acres during that same period. California's five-year average through Oct. 13 is 5,109 fires and 372,344 acres burned.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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