The three major Los Angeles County blazes were still out of control Friday, but firefighters were beginning to have some success and thousands of residents forced by the threat of the flames were being slowly allowed back home.
The hot, dry, dangerous Santa Ana winds that drove the wildfires through the week had tapered off a bit overnight. However, forecasters warned they could pick up again through the weekend, and therefore red flag warnings were extended through Sunday.
Containment of the Skirball Fire in the Sepulveda Pass and Bel-Air increased Friday to 30 percent — up from 20 — and some evacuees were back home, now that evacuation orders were partially lifted.
The fire, which was reported at 4:52 a.m. Wednesday on the east side of the San Diego (405) Freeway near Mulholland Drive, has scorched about 475 acres, destroyed four homes and damaged 12 others while prompting the evacuation of about 700 homes and an apartment building.
Despite Thursday’s strong Santa Ana winds, weaker gusts allowed firefighters to make progress containing the blaze.
One firefighter suffered neck burns and was treated at a hospital, authorities said.
Red flag parking restrictions meant to keep Los Angeles streets open for firefighting equipment expired at 8 a.m. Friday, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.
The fire has been kept on the east side of the freeway.
Evacuation orders covered a large area bounded by Mulholland Drive to the north, Sunset Boulevard to the south, the 405 to the west and Roscomare Road on the east. The exception to the evacuation order was the Bel- Air Crest housing development, which was not threatened, according to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Garcetti announced Thursday afternoon that evacuation orders would be lifted Friday for residents on the north side of Casiano Road off Mulholland Drive, Roscomare Road — with the exception of Roscomare at Linda Flora Drive —
and streets between Bellagio and Sunset Boulevard.
The Getty Center and the nearby Skirball Center, both on the west side of the freeway, did not appear to be threatened, though both remained closed Thursday. Getty officials said both museums will reopen Friday.
UCLA, Cal State Northridge, Los Angeles Valley College and Santa Monica College all canceled classes Thursday. UCLA officials said university medical facilities remained open, and classes and campus activities were to resume at all four schools Friday.
All Los Angeles Unified School District schools in the San Fernando Valley and some on the west side of Los Angeles — a total of 265 district schools and charter schools — were closed Thursday and will remain shuttered Friday. A full list of closed schools is available at www.lausd.net.
To assist families affected by the closures, the LAUSD planned to set up special centers between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with meals available for students, at:
— Byrd Middle School, 8501 Arleta Ave. in Sun Valley;
— Reseda High School, 18230 Kittridge St. in Reseda; and
— Palms Middle School, 10860 Woodbine St. in the Palms district.
The Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District closed all of its schools Wednesday and Thursday. Schools in Santa Monica were expected to reopen Friday, but Malibu schools will remain closed, the district announced.
The fire was burning in the same general area as the devastating Bel- Air Fire of 1961. That blaze destroyed about 500 homes and led to various policy changes, including a prohibition on wood-shingle roofs and the strict requirement to clear brush around properties.
What sparked the Skirball Fire was not immediately determined.
—City News Service
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