Sepulveda Boulevard Reopens After Brush Fire Near Getty Center

Getty Center shuts down on request of fire officials

Sepulveda Boulevard was reopened Friday morning, after being closed overnight between West Los Angeles and Sherman Oaks. It was closed as a wildfire precaution.

About 100 acres were scorched in the pass near the Mountain Gate development before sunrise on Thursday, after a wildfire started shortly after midnight near Skirball Center Drive.

The fire was contained by 8 p.m. thanks in part to rare nighttime water drops shortly after the fire broke out.

Hundreds of firefighters supported by water-dropping choppers launched a massive strike on the fire, confining it to 100 acres and extinguishing it before it threatened multimillion-dollar homes and the Getty Center museum.

The Sepulveda Fire was declared knocked down shortly after 8 a.m. Thursday following an operation involving more than 400 firefighters and lasting about seven-and-a-half hours, said Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey.

The announcement followed repeated nighttime and early-morning assaults on the fire by five water-dropping City Fire helicopters and five more from the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Both the northbound and southbound lanes of the San Diego (405) Freeway and Sepulveda Boulevard were shut down as a result of the fire, which burned toward the world-famous Getty Center and Mount St. Mary's College on Chalon Road.

Shortly after 6 a.m., the freeway was reopened, but onramps and offramps remained closed in the fire zone, as did Sepulveda Boulevard. But by 8 a.m., all freeway closures had been lifted, except for the 405 Freeway offramps at Valley Vista Boulevard in Sherman Oaks and Skirball Center Drive in the Sepulveda Pass, said California Highway Patrol Officer Francisco Villalobos.

Traffic remained heavy on the freeway and surface streets along the 405 corridor during most of Thursday afternoon.

Although the Getty Center was not threatened, it remained closed Thursday on the recommendation of the Los Angeles Fire Department, said museum spokeswoman Julie Jaskol. She said the closure does not affect the Getty Villa in Malibu.

No evacuations were ordered, but two evacuation shelters -- at the Stephen S. Wise Temple on the east side of the 405 Freeway and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in West L.A. -- were opened for residents electing to leave their homes, said Humphrey.

The firefighters deployed overnight and Thursday morning came from the Los Angeles city and county fire departments and CalFire.

"We're very fortunate," Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss said. "They saved the homes."

Firefighters prevented the flames from encroaching closer than two miles from the Getty Center, Humphrey said.

Humphrey said fire engines were also used in structure protection efforts to guard against flames burning toward the Chalon Road campus of Mount St. Mary's College and homes on North Bundy Drive. But he said those structures were not damaged or endangered.

Humphrey had urged area residents to be prepared to leave if necessary.

"Those in the immediate area who can see flames should calmly prepare to leave well in advance of the flames," Humphrey said, adding that those who were mobility-impaired or had pre-existing health problems are being encouraged to stay way from the smoke and flames.

Humphrey said fire crews patrolled the Mandeville Canyon area, located more than a mile and a half to the west of the fire zone, checking for flying embers up and down residential streets and answering questions from residents outside their homes.

Humphrey said fire investigators were working to determine the cause of the fire, reviewing 911 calls initially reporting the blaze.

The California Highway Patrol began receiving reports of flames alongside the southbound San Diego Freeway just south of Skirball Center Drive about 12:10 a.m., said CHP Officer David Porter.

Officials credited a "pre-deployment" of equipment and personnel with their success against the overnight fire.

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