Firefighters battled the Getty Fire in the Sepulveda Pass Thursday morning and focused on establishing a containment line along the southern end of the last remaining evacuation zone.
Evacuation orders were lifted for all residents, except those in an area bounded by the San Diego (405) Freeway and Kenter Avenue and Sunset Boulevard to an area just south of Mountaingate Drive.
Fire officials said at a Wednesday evening news conference a containment line along the southern border, Sunset Boulevard, of the evacuation zone was not fully established and increasing containment in that area was their priority in the overnight hours. It was hoped residents in the last evacuation zone could return home later Thursday.
At its height, the evacuation area stretched as far north as Mulholland Drive and as far west as Temescal Canyon Road in Pacific Palisades, affecting up to 10,000 residential and commercial structures. It was unclear how many residents remained evacuated.
Despite gusting winds and extreme red flag conditions, firefighters were able to increase containment to 39% with an estimated 745 acres burned as of 7 p.m., according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. The fire has destroyed 12 homes since erupting around 1:30 a.m. Monday and five other homes were damaged.
The extreme red flag fire conditions were expected to remain in effect until 6 p.m. Thursday.
Despite the evacuations being lifted, the National Weather Service continued to warn residents that gusting winds and low humidity will still leave the area ripe for wildfires.
“Strong Santa Ana winds gusting between 40 and 60 mph will continue to impact wind-prone areas of Los Angeles and Ventura counties through (this) morning, with isolated gusts to 70 mph in the Los Angeles County mountains, including the western portions of the Santa Monica mountains,” according to a statement from the weather service.
“Very dry air is associated with these Santa Ana winds with widespread single digit humidities through (today), as low as 1 to 2 percent in some locations.
“These prolonged dangerous fire weather conditions combined with the very dry fuels and presence of existing fires and associated flare-ups adds up to extreme red flag conditions for much of Los Angeles and Ventura counties. As a result, there is high potential for very rapid fire growth and extreme fire behavior with new or existing fires.”
LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas noted Tuesday that it would take “one ember, just one ember downwind, to start another brush fire.”
The Los Angeles Unified School District announced that 14 schools closed since Monday were cleaned and inspected and ready to reopen on regular bell schedules. The exceptions were Kenter Canyon Elementary and Topanga Elementary Charter, district spokeswoman Barbara Jones said. Palisades Charter High School will also remain closed Thursday.
About 760 firefighters remained on the fire lines, working to stretch containment lines.
Evacuation centers for people forced out of their homes by the Getty Fire were opened at the Westwood Recreation Center at 1350 S. Sepulveda Blvd., near Wilshire Boulevard, and the Palisades Recreation Center, 851 Alma Real Drive.
Evacuation centers for animals were established at the West Valley Animal Shelter at 20655 Plummer St., the West Los Angeles Animal Shelter at 11361 Pico Blvd. Hansen Dam Recreation Center at 11770 Foothill Blvd. in Lake View Terrace was opened to receive large animals.
The Los Angeles Police Department on Wednesday was escorting residents still under evacuation orders back to their homes — for about 10 minutes — to allow them to retrieve medications or pets they may have left behind when they were evacuated. Escorts were being provided from three locations:
— Gelson’s, 15424 Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades;
— the U.S. Post Office at 200 S. Barrington Ave.; and
— Paul Revere Middle School, 1450 Allenford Ave.
Red flag parking restrictions that went into effect at 8 p.m. Tuesday to keep narrow, hilly streets clear to allow fire trucks unimpeded passage will be lifted at 8 a.m. Thursday, according to the LAFD.
Authorities confirmed Tuesday afternoon the Getty Fire was caused by gusting winds that severed a tree branch and blew it into a Department of Water and Power electrical line, causing sparks that fell onto the brush below.
“This was, simply put, … an act of God,” Garcetti said.
Marty Adams, general manager of the Department of Water & Power, told reporters the agency had just completed a brush-clearing operation in the area in July, trimming 248 trees “in excess of what the state requires.” He noted that the branch in question came from a tree “outside of our clearance zone” but was carried by the wind into the power line.
Adams said the power line itself remained intact and is still delivering electricity to the area.
The San Diego Freeway, a southbound stretch of which was closed for much of the day Monday, was open through the Sepulveda Pass, and all exit ramps between the Ventura (101) Freeway in Sherman Oaks to Sunset Boulevard reopened about 9 p.m. Wednesday, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Southbound Sepulveda Boulevard was open, except between Skirball Center Drive and Sunset Boulevard, which was restricted to residents with I.D. only, the LAFD said.
The Getty Center museum was not believed to be in immediate danger from the flames. Officials there said Getty Center and the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades would be closed through Friday to ensure fire crews had adequate access to the area to fight the flames.