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Wildfires in Los Angeles County

Saddle Ridge Fire, 2019

Image of a portion of the Saddle Ridge Fire in Los Angeles, 2019." Photo from the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Until the 1870’s, wildfires (as today, mostly accidently or purposely human-caused) in the mountains north of Los Angeles were considered more of an attraction than a threat, especially at night. They were fondly described as “tongues of flame licking the Sierra Madre.” Since few people lived on or near the mountains, fires there caused no great alarm. In fact, two cattlemen were reported to annually ignite big fires in the mountains that raised no concern. Wildfires only first became a concern in 1884 when flooding from eroded hillsides wiped out the track system of the Southern Pacific Railroad in the Los Angeles area. Authorities finally banned needless fires and even threatened to prosecute offenders. As fires and flooding resulting from fire erosion increasingly threatened property by the late 1800s, Angelenos lost their fondness for “beautiful” wildfires and demanded fire suppression.

Largest Wildfires in Los Angeles County
By Acres Burned

"ANF" is abbreviation for Angeles National Forest

Fire Name Area Date Fire Started Acres Burned Structures Destroyed/Fatalities
Station ANF, Flintridge Aug. 26, 2009 160,577 209 structures destroyed; 2 fatalities (firefighters)
Big Fire of 1919 (East Fork San Gabriel River) ANF, area north and east of Forks junction Sep. 12, 1919 126,000 No information found
Clampitt 1 Newhall to Chatsworth, Simi Valley Sep. 25, 1970 105,212 86 structures destroyed; 4 fatalities
Unnamed Fire San Gabriel Mountains Sep.? 1878 60,000 No information found
Ranch Near Townsand Peak, SW of Templin Highway & Interstate 5 Oct. 20, 2007 58,401 10 structures destroyed
Dayton Canyon Malibu Canyon to Canoga Park Oct. 9, 1982 54,000 97 structures destroyed
San Gabriel ANF, San Gabriel Canyon north of Monrovia Aug. 31, 1924 49,421 No information found
Liebre Mountain ANF, NE of Castaic Lake, east of I-5 Jun. 21, 1968 48,428 1 fatality (firefighter)
Mill ANF, north of Sunland, Tujunga, La Crescenta, La Canada Nov. 23, 1975 46,500 0 structures destroyed
Sand ANF east of the Santa Clarita Valley Jul. 22, 2016 41,432 18 homes destroyed, 2 fatalities
Fire Name Area Date Fire Started Acres Burned Structures Destroyed; Fatalities
Williams Hills and canyons above San Dimas Sep. 22, 2003 38,984 62 structures destroyed
Sherwood/Newton Malibu to Zuma, Lake Sherwood in Ventura County Dec. 26, 1956 37,537 120 structures destroyed; 1 fatality
Wright 1 Malibu Canyon Sep. 25, 1970 31,000 403 structures destroyed; 10 fatalities
Powerhouse No. LA County, ANF, near communities of Lake Hughes, Elizabeth Lake, and Green Valley May 30, 2013 30,274 58 structures destroyed
Malibu (Latigo/Sherwood) Malibu, Latigo, Sherwood Oct. 23, 1935 28,599 0 structures destroyed
Magic Mountain ANF Jul. 20, 1960 27,500 Forest research facilities & cabins destroyed
Kanan/Dune (Mandeville Canyon/Agoura-Malibu) Malibu to Agoura to Mandeville Canyon Oct. 23, 1978 25,000 230; 2 fatalities
Topanga NW of Chatsworth and San Fernando Valley Sep. 28, 2005 24,175 13 structures destroyed
Gale ANF, west of Bear Creek to Pine Mountain Aug. 1957 24,004 No information found
Copper Santa Clarita Valley May 6, 2002 23,407 26 structures destroyed

Table continues after image below.

Station Fire From Space, 2009

Image of Station Fire, mid-morning, August 30, 2009, from NASA's Terra satellite. Plumes had risen 4.3 miles above sea level. Courtesy of NASA.

Largest Wildfires in Los Angeles County
By Acres Burned - 5,000+ Acres
(continued from table above)

"ANF" is abbreviation for Angeles National Forest

Fire Name Area Date Fire Started Acres Burned Structures Destroyed; Fatalities
Johnstone ANF Jul. 20, 1960 23,170 Forest research facilities & cabins destroyed
Canyon (Canyon Inn) North of Glendora Aug. 24, 1968 22,197 8 fatalities (firefighters) 2
Marple Marple Canyon, Castaic Area Aug. 26, 1996 21,500 1 structure destroyed
Curve ANF, Azusa Canyon Sep. 1, 2003 20,857 72 structures destroyed
Old Topanga (Calabasas/Malibu) Malibu and Topanga Nov. 2, 1993 18,500 350 structures destroyed; 3 fatalities
Liberty (Malibu/Zuma) Malibu Canyon, Corral Canyon Dec. 11, 1958 17,860 107 structures destroyed; 1 fatality
Pine East of Gorman Jul. 12, 2004 17,418 15 structures destroyed; 1 fatality (firefighter)
Trippet Ranch or Topanga Topanga Canyon, Malibu Hills Nov. 23, 1938 16,500 350 structures destroyed
Creek Kagel Canyon, ANF north of Sylmar Dec. 5, 2017 15,619 123 Structures destroyed
Woodland Hills (Las Virgenes) Topanga Canyon, Malibu Hills Nov. 6, 1943 15,300 0 structures destroyed
Fire Name Area Date Fire Started Acres Burned Structures Destroyed; Fatalities
Potrero Malibu/Ventura County Area Oct. 1930 15,000 0 structures destroyed
Polecat ANF Jul. 17, 1960 14,737 No information found
Sesnon (Porter Ranch) Oil fields of Oat Mountain, north of Porter Ranch Oct. 13, 2008 14,703 78 structures destroyed; 1 indirect fatality (vehicle accident)
Monrovia Peak ANF Dec. 27, 1953 14,135 No information found
Calabasas Canyon Malibu, Calabasas Canyon, Corral Canyon Oct. 28, 1996 13,010 6 structures destroyed
Crown Agua Dulce to Palmdale Jul. 20, 2004 11,966 10 structures destroyed
Sayre Sylmar Nov. 14, 2008 11,262 604 structures destroyed
Arroyo Seco Arroyo Seco to Tujunga Aug. 1896 10,800 No information found
Saddle Ridge Sylmar, Granada Hills, Porter Ranch, Angeles National Forest Oct. 10, 2019 8,799 19 structures destroyed; 1 Fatality (first responder)
Topanga Topanga Canyon Nov. 6, 1961 8,000 0 structures destroyed
Fire Name Area Date Fire Started Acres Burned Structures Destroyed; Fatalities
La Tuna Verdugo Mountains, Burbank, Glendale, Sunland-Tujunga Sep. 1, 2017 7,194 10 structures destroyed
Unnamed Fire ANF 1906 6,955 No information found
Bel Air/Brentwood Bel Air, Brentwood Nov. 6, 1961 6,090 484 structures destroyed
Rye Santa Clarita Dec. 5, 2017 6,049 6 structures destroyed
Foothill SE of Action Jul. 17, 2004 6,000 0 structures destroyed
Kinneloa Foothills above Altadena/Sierra Madre Oct. 27, 1993 5,485 196 structures destroyed
San Gabriel Complex 3 ANF, Morris Reservoir, above Azusa Jun. 20, 2016 5,399 3 fatalities
Piuma Malibu area, Kanan/Decker Oct. 14, 1985 5,120 6 structures destroyed

1) These fires were initially two of four independent fires. They ultimately merged with two other fires starting in Simi Valley and Fillmore that combined into a single giant 147-mile perimeter blaze, burning a total of 435,000 acres.
2) All but one of these firefighter victims were teenagers. Five teenage firefighters were also killed in the 1955 Hacienda Fire (see table below). The practice of using teenage probationer firefighters ended after the 1968 Canyon Fire.
3) Combination of the Reservoir and Fish Fires.

Sources: U.S. Forest Service, Cal Fire, Los Angeles County Fire Department, City of Los Angeles Fire Department, City of Malibu, Los Angeles Times, Malibu Times, Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, Fire Archeology.


The La Tuna Fire in 2017 is reported to be the largest fire (by acres burned) ever to blaze within Los Angeles City limits.


The largest wildfire on record in Los Angeles County, the Station Fire of 2009, ranks as California's 13th largest wildfire.


Deadliest Wildfires in Los Angeles County History

Griffith Park Fire Victims, 1933

Victims of the Griffith Park Fire receiving first aid, October 1933. Photo from UCLA Library Digital Collections, Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive.

Fire Name Area Date Fatalities
Griffith Park Griffith Park Oct. 3, 1933 29
Loop Loop Canyon near Sylmar Nov. 1, 1966 12
Wright Malibu Canyon Sep. 25, 1970 10
Canyon (Canyon Inn) North of Glendora Aug. 24, 1968 8**
Hacienda La Habra Heights Sep. 2, 1955 6**

** In both these fires, all but one of these firefighter victims were teenagers. The practice of using teenage probationer firefighters ended after the 1968 Canyon Fire.


The Griffith Park Fire of 1933 is California's deadliest wildfire and the third deadliest firefighter tragedy in U.S. history. It is not, however, listed among the Los Angeles County's largest wildfires because the area it burned was only 47 acres.


Since 1933, of the reported 86 fatalities from Los Angeles County wildfires, 60 were firefighters and 12 of those were teenage probationer firefighters.


Most Destructive Wildfires in Los Angeles County History

Structure Burning in Creek Fire, 2017

A burning structure in the 2017 Creek Fire. Photo courtesy of Harry Garvin & Los Angeles Fire Department.

Fire Name Area Date Structures Destroyed
Sayre Sylmar Nov. 14, 2008 604
Bel Air/Brentwood Bel Air, Brentwood Nov. 6, 1961 484
Wright Malibu Canyon Sep. 25, 1970 403
Trippet Ranch or Topanga Topanga Canyon, Malibu Hills Nov. 23, 1938 350
Old Topanga Malibu and Topanga Nov. 2, 1993 323
Kanan/Dune (Mandeville Canyon/Agoura-Malibu) Malibu to Agoura to Mandeville Canyon Oct. 23, 1978 230
Station ANF, Flintridge Aug. 26, 2009 209
Kinneloa Foothills above Altadena/Sierra Madre Oct. 27, 1993 196
Malibu Hills Malibu Nov. 1945 150
Creek Kagel Canyon, ANF north of Sylmar Dec. 5, 2017 123
Sherwood/Newton Malibu to Zuma, Lake Sherwood in Ventura County Dec. 26, 1956 120
Liberty (Malibu/Zuma) Malibu Canyon, Corral Canyon Dec. 11, 1958 107

The most destructive wildfire recorded in Los Angeles County, the Sayre Fire of 2008, ranks as California's 14th most destructive wildfire.



On August 5, 1957, pilot Roland Barton of the Los Angeles County Fire Department (photo from Los Angeles County Fire Department archives) began pioneering the use of helicopters in forest fire-fighting. That year, seven Bell 47-B helicopters were used to move more than 3,000 firefighters and 1,000 pounds of freight over 10 days against the Gale Fire in the Angeles National Forest. The helicopters were also used to evacuate sick, injured and trapped firefighters, conduct reconnaissance and “hover jump” firefighters, This was the first, fully operational, extended use of rotary-wing aircraft in fighting a U.S. forest fire and, possibly, in any forest fire in the world. Source: U.S. Forest Service.

Pilot Roland Barton, Los Angeles County Fire Department, Bell Helicopter