City of Los Angeles
DEPARTMENT OF FIRE
ANALYSIS OF GREATER ALARM OPERATIONS
Laurel Canyon Brush Fire
A XB C
|TYPE OF OCCUPANCY:
Brush and Structures
|COMPANIES AND CHIEF OFFICERS
|EVALUATION OF OPERATIONS/SUGGESTED
AREAS FOR IMPROVING FUTURE OPERATIONS:
This fire was of major proportions on arrival of the first Companies. I do not believe
that in the last 10 years we have been faced with the degree of property loss and
potential loss in the early stages of any brush fire as posed by this one.
I would estimate that at least one-half to two-thirds of the
structure loss occurred before the Fire Department laid the first line. The overall losses
were minimized in relation to the potential because of the overwhelming efforts by every
involved member. This is not to say that every action was correct and operational
improvements are needed as will be addressed under "Operational Improvements."
This Form F-113, Analysis of Emergency Operations, is a
very brief overview of the fire and suggestions on how I feel we can improve our
operations for future incidents. One of the best learning tools I have found from this
fire is in reviewing the tape recordings of radio communications, not once, but several
- CONDITIONS AFFECTING FIRE:
The topography of the fire area is comprised of steep hills, heavy brush, very winding
narrow streets, with single ingress and egress, a heavy concentrations of older structures
built in close proximity to each other on top of ridges. In addition, the area has a poor
water distribution system.
The majority of
structure loss occurred prior to the arrival of Fire Companies, or before Fire Companies
could be deployed into the area. In areas where Fire Department resources became
operational, minimum fire loss progressed beyond that point.
The primary reasons for the structure losses were high
temperatures for the previous two weeks, low humidity, wind from the south-southwest, 10
to 12 knots, delayed alarm, wood siding, structures built on ridges, with minimal brush
clearance, and the fire starting at the base of a very steep slope (approximately 70
degrees), covered with dense brush. With all of these conditions combined, the fire swept
up the slope, exposing the houses on three ridges, where the houses sustained almost total
The aforementioned conditions were evident as observed by
the first-responding Companies, in that the loom-up had attained an altitude of between
1,000 to 1,500 feet, and between 5 and 10 structures were involved before the first
The primary reason for the losses being limited to the
immediate area of involvement was the result of the coordinated efforts of all resources
deployed during the emergency.
- FIRE FACTORS
- Major brush fire in progress on arrival of first Company
with 5 to 10 structures involved.
- Access--Very limited narrow winding streets,
- Weather--BBI 54--Extreme, (red flag alert).
- Structural--Older, adjacent to brush, minimal brush
(clearance) built on ridge tops with very steep slopes coming right up to foundations,
wood siding, large trees.
- Water--Old systems with tuberculated mains, poor
grid system, and hydrant spacing on dead-end mains.
- OPERATIONAL IMPROVEMENTS:
These are areas, where if I had this same fire today, I would consider different actions
than taken on September 16, 1979, (date of fire). I think we can all learn from this
incident and hopefully will implement operational changes and thinking to equip our
Command Officers to more effectively deal with this type of major fire.
- Additional simulated training of Command Officers and staff
personnel in the Incident Command System.
- With a fire moving this fast, the Incident Commander should
call for the closest Engine Companies to be sent to staging with sufficient Chief Officers
and make up strike teams and deploy as needed.
- The Incident Commander should consider setting up the
Command Post at a Fire Station with adequate facilities.
- The Incident Commander should require OCD to give him
sufficient operating channels, i.e. one or two for fire ground, command, and Incident
Commander to OCD.
- The Incident Commander should name the fire as soon as
possible for communication purposes. (The Laurel Canyon Fire was called five different
names during its course.)
- Better communication with helicopters must be established.
Consider a Chief as air observation with a high band walkie-talkie. I could see the
helicopter overhead, but had difficulty communicating.
- Division Commanders and strike team leaders should release
resources if at all possible when other Divisions are in need. You don't have to spring a
whole strike team, maybe a couple of Engines will help.
- Field Commanders need additional training in how to
properly access and address OCD.
- Incident Commander is the only person who should contact
OCD. All other Commanders should either use the fire ground or command channels.
- All Division sedans should be equipped with outside radio
speakers and transmitting capabilities for each radio head.
- Specific persons must be assigned to monitor and
communicate on designated channels. Too many radio messages were not acknowledged or had
to be reported several times.
- A Documentation Officer is very important to coordinate
information and resource status.
- Two staging areas should be considered, especially if the
fire could cut off access from one end into fire areas, i.e. Laurel Canyon closed; staging
at Sunset could not service north flank of fire.
- It is important that all major changes in fire behavior,
assignments, communications channels, and staging areas be announced over all operational
radio channels connected with the fire.
- That damage assessment be started while the fire is still
burning, if at all possible. This may be done by strike team leaders through their
respective Division Commanders.
This fire, in my opinion, was handled well; and the on-line personnel, whether ground,
air, staff, or resource, did their very very best. There are lessons to be learned. Some
are identified in this report, and I hope more will be identified during the formal
The best lessons learned or
improvements identified are only worthwhile if we do something about them.
D.F. Anthony A/C Div.I-"C"
COMMANDER--BUREAU OF FIRE SUPPRESSION THROUGH CHANNELS (ORIGINAL)
COMMANDER--BUREAU OF FIRE SUPPRESSION THROUGH CHANNELS (DUPLICATE)
COMMANDER--TRAINING SECTION THROUGH CHANNELS (TRIPLICATE)