Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

    September 16, 1979
    The Kirkwood Bowl/Laurel Canyon Fire
    Hollywood Hills


September 23, 1979


TO: Bureau Commander, Bureau of Fire Suppression and Rescue,
FROM: Darrel E. Thompson, Battalion Commander, Battalion 5,
"B" Platoon

As the first-in Battalion Commander, my initial responsibilities was that of the Incident Commander, where I was involved in the overall development and implementation of an Emergency Organization.

Upon arrival of the Division Commander and his assumption of the position as Incident Commander, my responsibilities changed to that of the Suppression and Rescue Chief. In this position,I assisted the Incident Commander in the development and implementation of an overall fire suppression and rescue plan.

The Deputy Department Commander soon arrived on the scene. When he assumed command of the fire my responsibilities changed to that of the Plans Chief, where I continued to provide staff support to the Incident Commander.

On September 16, 1979 at 1457 hours, as the Commander of Battalion 5, I was dispatched as a part of the brush assignment to a reported brush fire at Kings rd. and Hillside ave. This first alarm brush assignment was comprised of Battalions 5 and 18; Engine and Truck 27; Engines 41, 97, and 82; and two helicopters.

As the alarm came in, I heard one member on the apparatus floor "we have a big loom up". As I was pulling out of quarters I asked OCD "what helicopters we had coming". At this point OCD did not have that information.

As I turned onto Sunset Blvd. from Cahuenga Blvd., I could see an extremely large loom up covering a very large area. I estimated this smoke to begin above Sunset Blvd. near Sunset Plaza Dr. and moved in a North East direction in a line directly over the Kirkwood Bowl area towards Mulholland Dr. However, in the general area of the top of Kings Rd. the smoke seemed to increase substantially in volume and density. I asked OCD if we had a report of 2 brush fires in this area. I received no answer. Due to the large loom up and general area, I requested OCD to double the assignment.

1458 As I was responding on Sunset Blvd, just passing Highland Ave, I notified OCD that this fire was a "Code 20 Incident".
1459 Engine 41 told OCD that structures were involved, that he wanted all the helicopters in the air, and then his radio was timed out as he started to set up a heliport. So, I requested that OCD set up the heliport at Fire Station 108 (as pre-planned) and have Engine 108 man it. I was unaware at this time that OCD was counting Engine 108 as part of the doubled assignment, that I had requested.
1500 When I was a few blocks from Fairfax Ave, I began to get a good view of the fire area. As this was a large intersection (Fairfax & Sunset), I decided to initially set up the Command Post at this location.
1501 At this point in time, Helicopter 6 had just arrived on the scene and he said that he would give me a size-up in a few minutes.

As I needed someone in charge of the Companies on Hillside Ave and also a good size-up from that area, I asked Battalion 18 to become S and R and take Command of the Companies on Hillside Ave. To my dismay, he was still responding and was on Santa Monica Blvd.

I requested OCD to send me two additional Battalion Chiefs. I knew that I needed to have one B.C. in charge of the Companies that I was going to send into the Kirkwood Bowl area and one B.C. to go up in the helicopter as the reconnaissance Chief.

1502 Engine 41 notified me that the fire was now heading across toward Grandview dr. As Grandview Dr. is the Southern rim of the Kirkwood Bowl, I knew that it was imperative that I get companies into the Bowl area immediately. I directed Engines 97, 52, and 76 to come in on Kirkwood to the Kirkwood Bowl area.

I then directed Engine 82 and Task Force 27 to the Hillside Dr. area along with Engine 41. I placed Captain White the TFC at TF-27 in charge of that area until relieved by a Battalion Chief. (Battalion 18) I was now sure of the general area of the fire and had companies responding to the top and bottom sides of the fire.

1503 Helicopter 6 contacted me and confirmed that 8 to 10 structures were now involved with fire and recommended that I concentrate companies considerably North and in on the Laurel Canyon side. From pre-fire planning of the Kirkwood Bowl area, I knew that a potential disaster was in the making.
1504 I immediately ordered three additional Strike Teams, to come in on the top of the fire off Laurel Canyon on Kirkwood.

Division I contacted me by radio and asked my location. We talked about the two reported fires in the area. I stated that I was working on the Hillside fire where at least 10 structures were involved. And that I believed that the other fire was on lower Kings Rd. (I meant Queens Rd).

On Channel 11 I contacted Battalion 11 and gave him the assignment of Reconnaissance Chief. I also told him that he could pick up the Helicopter at Fairfax and Sunset.

1506 I contacted OCD and asked to have the three Strike Teams respond down Laurel Canyon and come in on Kirkwood to Coldcrest. OCD notified me that all 3 requested Strike Teams were coming from the Valley side of Laurel Canyon.
1507 At approximately this point in time Division I, Chief Anthony, arrived on the scene and took Command as the Incident Commander. I was assigned the responsibility of the Suppression and Rescue Chief. I then worked with the Incident Commander in developing and implementing an overall fire suppression and rescue plan.
The Deputy Department Commander arrived and took Command as the Incident Commander. I then assumed the responsibility of the Plans Chief, where I provided Staff support to the Incident Commander

Darrel E. Thompson, Commander
Battalion 5, "B" Platoon

COMPANY/STATION OR UNIT COMMANDER                  ASSIGN. DIVISION COMMANDER                                                     ASSIGN.

F-225 - REV. 2-78


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