Brush fire in Verdugo Mountains about 70% contained

Gretchen Hoffman

Residents were breathing a little easier Tuesday night as flames

receded in a 1,100 acre fire that had threatened their homes the day

before.

The blaze that has burned mostly on the Glendale side of the

Verdugo Mountains was about 70% contained on Tuesday night, Glendale

Fire officials said.

The fire, which at its peak early Tuesday was being battled by

more than 600 firefighters and water-carrying helicopters and

airplanes, is considered suspicious in origin.

Officials cut back to 100 firefighters at about 6 p.m. Tuesday and

did not anticipate the fire spreading any further into the hills or

into Burbank, Glendale Fire Capt. Thomas Marchant said.

The fire began at about 11:45 a.m. Monday at the base of a hiking

trail about 3/4 of a mile up a service road in Brand Park, before

mushrooming to 750 acres by 3 p.m. City officials declared a local

state of emergency, and residents were ordered to temporarily

evacuate 33 homes along Thurber Street in Glendale and Via Alta in

Burbank.

Officials on Minday urged residents on Via La Paz and Paseo

Redondo to leave their homes as well. All residents were allowed to

return later that night. The American Red Cross set up an evacuation

center Monday in Burbank at McCambridge Park.

Firefighters worked overnight Monday, digging fire lines and

lighting more than 75 acres of backfires.

As flames jumped the fire break on the eastern flank early

Tuesday, edging toward residential Beaudry Terrace in northeast

Glendale, 10 structure protection teams were sent to the area to

watch over the homes.

Burbank city officials activated the Emergency Operations Center

Monday afternoon and were staffing it Tuesday night.

With a record low amount of rainfall last year leaving hillside

vegetation bone-dry, firefighters faced extreme conditions with

fast-moving flames, Glendale Fire Chief Chris Gray said.

Officials thought it inevitable that the fire would spread into

Burbank, but ground crews working around the perimeter, combined with

air support, had the fire 70% contained by 6 p.m. Tuesday.

"We're still at 1,100 acres burned," Marchant said. "However, we

really have no hot spots at this point."

"The humidity isn't as low as we thought it would be, and that

really helped," he added. "They've managed to deal with that steep

terrain and drop water on these hot spots."

Marchant estimated about $1.5 million has been poured into

fighting the fire.

As firefighters geared up for the second night on the lines,

safety was a primary concern.

"It's very slippery up in these hills now, with all the water

being used," Marchant said. "We're going to slowly attempt to reach

the remaining 30%."

Officials had no estimate as to when the fire would be fully

contained.

Firefighters were scattered around the grounds of Brand Park on

Tuesday, trying to catch some sleep in the sparse shade the trees

provided. The ones who were lucky enough to get some sleep the night

before roughed it in sleeping bags against the backdrop of the

bright-hot fire, which was visible from downtown Los Angeles.

Four firefighters and a Glendale Police officer suffered minor

injuries in connection with the fire. The officer, who was directing

traffic on the Glendale-Burbank border on Monday, suffered a shoulder

injury in a hit-and-run accident.

Two firefighters, including one from Glendale, suffered heat

exhaustion, another was bitten by red ants and the fourth was treated

at the scene for lightheadedness.

Arson investigators are still working to determine the cause of

the brush fire. Anyone with information is asked to call the arson

hotline at 548-4805.

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