Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

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


October 5, 1979

TO: Bureau Commander, Bureau of Fire Suppression
and Rescue
FROM: Robert S. Furr, Commander, Battalion 9,
"C" Platoon

September 16, 1979

1503 hours - Dispatched to Sunset and Fairfax
1515 hours - Arrived at Command Post, Sunset and Fairfax. Assigned the command function of Division "A", and directed to report to Kirkwood and Laurel Canyon Boulevard. Identity of companies working on the fire in this area was not given - no other resources were available at this time. Strike Teams requested were responding and would be sent to Division "A" as soon as available.
1525 hours - Arrived at Kirkwood and Yucca Trail (in bottom of Canyon directly below main front of fire) Established operational base at this point - Communications with S & R and I.C. through not good, seemed to be best at this point. Several structures on ridge above us and to the south were involved or exposed directly in line of travel of fire - winds at this time were mild, probably gusting from 15 to 20 M.P.H. My attempts to contact and identify the companies working on the fire, on the ridge above were unsuccessful. Messages to S & R regarding this initial size-up were not acknowledged.
1535 hours - Battalion Chief Olsen, Strike Team Leader (ST #20) reported on scene without his entire Strike Team - I directed him to take charge of the unidentified companies on the ridge and incorporate them into his Strike Team. The street that ran along the ridge was Grandview and Strike Team #20 was directed to operate in this area. This line was the head of the fire - Strike Team #20 was hampered in their efforts to move into position by the civilian traffic that clogged the narrow streets - Hordes of news media Personnel added to the congestion.
1545 hours - Strike Team #20 reported that several of his companie were isolated from exposed structures on Grandview, due to high voltage power lines falling and blocking streets - He also reported a severe loss of water pressure in this area. These problems were reported to S & R and Water and Power requested on the ridge.
1555 hours - Fire spotted on hillside behind us to the north, several structures along Kirkwood were exposed and fire was sweeping up towards other structures on the ridge.
1600 hours - Strike Team #22 (B/C Dianitto) reported on scene - They were directed to cover the exposed structures on Kirkwood and B/C Dianitto was directed to take the balance of his team to the 8400 block of Ridpath and Brier Drive. There he placed his companies strategically to head off the fire moving toward numerous structures. Strike Team #20 was successful in containing and extinguishing this sector of the fire with a minimal loss.
1610 hours - L.A.P.D. appeared in the Canyon with an evacuation team (four sedans) over a P.A. they were announcing that all residents were to evacuate this fire area - I stopped the team and discussed the situation with the Officer in charge. I requested that they discontinue their activities until I could contact our I.C. for confirmation. My contact with the I.C. proved they were unaware of this action. I recommended to the L.A.P.D. command to reconsider the seriousness of this action and confirm this with their C.P. They discontinued their efforts of evacuation at this point.
1620 hours - Containment of the fire at this point was evident - some structures were still burning but lines were in position for extinguishment and aided by excellent water drops, full extinguishment was in sight- The winds had favored us throughout the fire never becoming a predominant factor.
CONCLUSIONS: Narrow streets, some practically inaccessible to fire apparatus, coupled with hordes of sight seer, residents and numerous teams from the news media, clogged the streets with autos and foot traffic. This condition prevailed throughout the height of the incident and hampered our operations severely. Inability to put adequate companies on the fire in the initial stages was due to the method employed requesting Strike Teams from OCD. It is my opinion and certainly a confirmed policy in some areas, to call for x number of companies and x number of B/C's to a staging area in the early stages of the fire. This allows the I.C. to put the first arriving units in the most critical areas. It also provides a positive control of documentation and assignment.

It occurs to me that development of the I.C.S. was somewhat out of sequence or priority, when I was assigned a critical field command function with no identifiable resources! The segment of the first alarm companies in the area of Division "A", were not under any specific command and my efforts to rally them together was futile, attempts to identify them by number only was not accomplished for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Regardless of the difficulties encountered in organization, the companies working on the fire on Grandview and without a specific command, displayed a high degree of initiative in augmenting their water supply from swimming pools. Their aggressiveness and ingenuity played a major roll in stopping the spread of fire.

Strike Team #22 under command of B/C Dianitto was an example of effectiveness of our I.C.S. This team reported as a unit to my command received a briefing, were assigned a mission and under positive direction accomplished their goal. Strike Team #22 kept me informed with short concise radio messages regarding the needs or changing situations in his area.



F-225 - REV. 2-78


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