Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

     November 6, 1961
     The Bel Air Brush Fire
     Bel Air

Film Colony Mansions Destroyed
The Bel Air fire took a heavy toll in the film colony.

Homes of many Hollywood stars and entertainment industry celebrities were destroyed, damaged or threatened by the flames.

The palatial $150,000 home at 1421 Stone Canyon Rd., owned for many years by film producer Walter Wanger and his actress wife, Joan Bennett, and recently sold by them to Dr. Harvey Shipper, burned to the ground.

And on the west end of the fire, comedian Joe W. Brown watched his home at 1044 N. Bundy Dr. crumble under the assault of the flames.

"We were almost burned out 20 years ago when we lived in another canyon home," Brown said. "But we got off lucky that time."

Among homes destroyed, most of them valued at more than $100,000. were those of actor Burt Lancaster, actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, producer director George Powell and CBS vice president Howard Meighan.

The flames consumed Miss Gabor's $400,000 home which contained valuable paintings, jewelry and furs.

Other homes destroyed belonged to comedian Arnold Stang, Western singer Tex Williams, actress Rebecca Welles and comic Jay C. Flippen.

Among Hollywood celebrities whose homes were threatened or damaged were Cary Grant, Red Skelton, Kim Novak, Alfred Hitchcock, Ginger Rogers, Marlon Brando, Robert Stack, Steve Cochran, Bobby Darin and his wife, Sandra Dee: Greer Garson, Jascha Heifetz, Peggy Lee, Meredith Willson and Maxene and Laverne Andrews and Robert Taylor.

Miss Novak rushed home from a movie studio, climbed the roof of her $200,000 Bel Air house and turned the hose on the property. She and her fiancée, director Richard Quine, emerged unhurt.

Some expensive homes were saved by the occupants, who fought the blaze with garden hoses.

The home of Harold A. Blue at 1435 Stone Canyon Road, containing many art treasures, was saved in this manner. Mrs. Blue, daughter of the internationally known sculptor, Joseph Nicolosi, had countless paintings and pieces of sculpture in the house.

Next door, at 1431, Crosby Kelly, vice president of Litton Industries, enlisted the aid of six men, armed with hoses and fought the flames back saving his and the Blue residences.

All of the houses along the canyon are valued in excess of $100,000.

Other Stone Canyon homes saved by garden hoses included those of restaurateur Bob Cobb and Harold Ramser Sr., a leader in Republican circles.

The home of Otho Lovering, Paramount Studio film editor, was burned to the ground.

Red Skelton's home was endangered, but the manager of the comedian's studio dispatched 11 men with studio fire equipment. They pumped water from Skelton's pool with pumps borrowed from the Walt Disney Studio.

Actress June Haver was stopped by police at ? Avenue and Sunset Boulevard when she tried to drive her car and ran the five blocks to evacuate her adopted twin daughters, Katie and Laurie MacMurray, 5.

Miss Haver's husband, actor Fred MacMurray, meanwhile arrived home, packed a few things and the family, a maid and gardener moved into a Santa Monica hotel.

TV actor Cliff Robertson of 1311 N. Kenter Drive came to the aid of a neighbor, Mrs. Barbara Flynn, and her two sons aged 1 and 2, who were stranded in their home on the burning hillside without a car.

Robertson drove the Flynns to safety and returned to his home where he was able to salvage only an album of photographs of his daughter, Stephanie, 2, before the fire forced him away.

The actor said his home was burning when he looked back from a block away.

Bandleader Lawrence Welk, who evacuated his family earlier in the day, remained on the roof of his home at 193 Tigertail Road with a garden hose.

Among evacuees who fled ? homes in the Bundy? Drive area were Bo , head of the Beverly Management Corp., and television producer Don Fedderson, Both live in the 400 block of Bristol Drive.

Justin Dart, Rexall Drug Co. board chairman, rescued a number of valuable paintings from his home at 944 Airole Way just minutes before he and neighbors were forced to flee.

Los Angeles Examiner, November 7, 1961

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