A brush fire broke out and threatened homes Tuesday in the Beverly Crest area, prompting evacuations and a furious response by firefighters, but no structures were damaged.
The blaze, which quickly scorched an estimated 35-40 acres and had the potential to grow to 60, was reported just before 2 p.m. between Portola and Yoakum drives east of Benedict Canyon Drive, according to Margaret Stewart of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
By 7:30 p.m., the blaze was 25 percent contained and firefighters had the upper hand, Stewart reported.
The fire was sparked by a “weed wacker” being used by a contractor clearing brush in the rear of a home in the 9800 block of Portola Drive, Stewart said.
Two firefighters, both men, were taken to a hospital, one for heat exhaustion and the other for a minor burn injury, Stewart said.
Five helicopters made water drops and four fixed-wing aircraft dropped retardant on ridge lines and crews fought to contain the blaze within Benedict Canyon Drive to the west, San Ysidro Drive to the east, Yoakum Drive to the north and Portola Drive to the south, LAFD Capt. Erik Scott said.
More than 250 firefighters were at the scene three hours after the flames erupted and sent smoke looming over the area east of Bel-Air.
The fire burned uphill and in an easterly direction amid relatively light winds, Scott said.
Homes to the north, south and east of the fire were threatened and crews worked to protect them from the flames, Stewart said.
Evacuations were ordered for San Ysidro Drive between Milboro Place and Beeson Drive and the northern boundary of Highridge Drive down Summitridge Drive and continuing on San Ysidro Drive to Stan Place to the south, according to Stewart, who said evacuees could seek shelter at the Westwood Recreation Center at 1350 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Stewart said.
Around 85 homes were affected by evacuation orders or warnings, she said.
In Beverly Hills, Benedict Canyon Drive was closed to northbound traffic at Tower Road and San Ysidro Drive was closed at Pickfair Way because of the fire, though no homes in that city were threatened.
Area residents with identification were allowed to proceed, according to the Beverly Hills Police Department.
All evacuations were canceled by 8 p.m., and Mulholland Drive, which had been closed, was reopened to residents only, Stewart said.
Air units continued to make water drops as nightfall approached “and firefighters will focus on cleaning up the hot spots in a safe manner through the night,” according to Stewart, who said operations were expected to continue for the next few days.
“This serves as a strong reminder to residents to only use licensed contractors who follow the safety requirements to include no metal blades and extinguishing agent at hand,” Stewart said of the fire’s cause. “The exhaust manifolds (on weed trimmers and brush cutters) can get very hot and is the likely cause of the fire.”
The spinning metal blades of brush cutters often throw sparks when they contact rocks during clearance work.
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