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Fire near L.A. Zoo mostly extinguished, as some animals evacuate

Fire near L.A. Zoo mostly extinguished, as some animals evacuate
Los Angeles Zoo animals are prepared for evacuation as a fire burned in Griffith Park on Nov. 9. (Joseph Serna / Los Angeles Times)

The lemurs were among the first animals to be evacuated. So were the bird show animals.

Put in cages with other small species, the animals were just the latest Californians whose lives were disrupted by a season — in fact, a year — of fire.

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The Los Angeles Zoo officials closed the facility for the day Friday as a fire burned in Griffith Park.

Officials said that early indications were that smoke from the fire did not cause health issues for the animals, but that staff was continuing to monitor conditions. To the north and west, the monstrous plume of smoke from destructive fires in Ventura and L.A. County towered into the sky.

In addition to preparing animals for evacuation, zoo workers hosed down hillside areas most vulnerable to flames. Staffers said they could see the fire from their offices, but they did not evacuate.

The fire, which sent plumes of smoke into the air as heavy brush burned, was spotted just before 8 a.m. near fire roads, hiking trails and a landfill in a remote section of Griffith Park, a challenge for crews trying to access the area, said Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Peter Sanders.

By late morning, the fire behind the zoo had been all but extinguished, with all visible flames put out, department officials said. Crews shifted to snuffing out smoldering patches of brush and chopping down weakened trees and branches. Two helicopters continued to orbit the area.

One firefighter was injured and taken to a hospital, but officials said he was not burned.

Firefighters put out hot spots outside the Los Angeles Zoo after a fire Nov. 9.
Firefighters put out hot spots outside the Los Angeles Zoo after a fire Nov. 9. (Joseph Serna / Los Angeles Times)

With little wind to complicate their efforts, firefighters spent much of the morning putting out smoldering hot spots outside the zoo. The landscape was charred black and gray.

Within an hour of the fire first being spotted, several city, county and privately contracted water-dropping helicopters were orbiting the park trying to knock down the flames.

As of about 9:30 a.m., the blaze had charred about 30 acres, Sanders said.

Though the fire produced thick smoke visible across a wide area, it had not threatened any structures, Sanders said.

Fire Department Capt. Alfred Leon and his crew were taking a break from digging containment lines when the brush behind their trucks started to crackle and smoke.

"Hey Cap, we got somethin’ working back here!" a firefighter yelled.

Leon and his crew circled the dusty ridge and climbed on top, where they began blasting water into the brush.

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Friday's fire was as routine as could be given the location, Leon said, but "you're surrounded by a major metropolitan city, lots of brush, wildlife and tough terrain. It's absolutely challenging.”

It was, however, a relatively merciful blaze in a year of smoke and flames, lost homes and lives.

11:05 a.m.: This article was updated with information about progress in fighting the fire.

10:30 a.m.: This article was updated with scenes from the firefight and additional details from zoo officials.

10:10 a.m.: This article was updated with photos from the fire.

9:35 a.m.: This article was updated with new acreage numbers.

8:40 a.m.: This article was updated with additional information about fire response and acreage burned.

9 a.m.: This article was updated with information on some animals being evacuated at the zoo.

9:10 a.m.: This article was updated with details from scene.

This article was originally published at 7:50 a.m.

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