50 years ago, over the course of November 6th and 7th, 1961, one of the most destructive fires in the history of Los Angeles raged. Fueled by hot dry conditions and fierce Santa Ana winds, the Bel Air Fire burned 484 homes, damaged 190 more and charred 16, 090 acres.
The 405 freeway, only a year old, was thought to be a formidable fire barrier but flames leaped across it. Cedar shingles roofs, popular in the ranch style houses that dotted the hills, went up like tinder. As a result of the fire these types of shingles were outlawed though you can still find them on older houses in the hills.
This being Los Angeles, and Bel Air being a favorite neighborhood of celebrities, many well known people were affected. Above is a picture of Richard Nixon defending his roof from the flames.
It's been wet these last few days but it's still fire season and today is a good day to remind ourselves how to help protect our properties from fire. Click here for the LAFD brush clearance site and here for Ready, Set, Go! information about how to evacuate during a fire ( or other emergency.)
For more information about the Bel Air fire you can check out the LAFD historical Society story here. And do take a few minutes to look at the documentary below. Dramatically called Design For Disaster it's the story of the fire narrated by William Conrad in the hard bitten detective story style of the day.