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WOOLSEY FIRE INFORMATION: LOS ANGELES COUNTY

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Wildfires in Los Angeles County

Wildfire Flames

A wildfire "wall of fire." Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.

Update as of Nov. 12, 9:29 am: The Woolsey Fire started about 2:24 p.m. on Thursday, November 8, near the Old Rocketdyne facility near Simi Valley in Ventura County. Since then, it has burned 91,572 acres, spread over portions of Ventura and Los Angeles Counties (including L.A. County cities of Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Malibu, Westlake Village and West Hills in Los Angeles). Two deaths are possibly related to the fire. There are 57,000 structures threatened with an estimated 370 reported destroyed. Source: CAL FIRE


Until the 1870’s, wildfires (as today, mostly human-caused) in the mountains north of Los Angeles were considered more picturesque than threatening, 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 became a concern in 1884 when flooding from fire-denuded hillsides destroyed some of the Southern Pacific Railroad's track system in the Los Angeles area. Authorities finally banned needless fires and threatened to prosecute offenders. By the late 1880s, as fires and subsequent flooding from fire erosion increasingly threatened property, Angelenos lost their fondness for “beautiful” wildfires and called for fire suppression. After the disastrous wildfire season of 1896 in the San Gabriel Mountains (including a fire that burned 11,000 acres over nearly three months) was followed by destructive flooding, B.F. Allen was appointed as Special Forest Agent and Supervisor over federal forests in Arizona, California and New Mexico and assigned responsibility and funding for forest fire suppression.

Largest Wildfires in Los Angeles County
By Acres Burned - 5,000+ Acres

"ANF" is abbreviation for Angeles National Forest

Fire Name Area Date Fire Started Acres Burned Structures Destroyed/Fatalities
Station ANF, Flintridge 8/26/2009 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 9/12/1919 126,000 No information found
Clampitt 1 Newhall to Chatsworth, Simi Valley 9/25/1970 105,212 86 structures destroyed; 4 fatalities
Ranch Near Townsand Peak, SW of Templin Highway & Interstate 5 10/20/2007 58,401 10 structures destroyed
Dayton Malibu Canyon to Canoga Park 10/9/1982 54,000 97 structures destroyed
San Gabriel ANF, San Gabriel Canyon north of Monrovia September 1924 49,421 No information found
Liebre Mountain ANF, NE of Castaic Lake, east of I-5 6/21/1968 48,428 1 fatality (firefighter)
Mill ANF, north of Sunland, Tujunga, La Crescenta, La Canada 11/23/1975 46,500 0 structures destroyed
Sand ANF east of the Santa Clarita Valley 7/22/2016 41,432 18 homes destroyed, 2 fatalities
Williams Hills and canyons above San Dimas 9/22/2003 38,984 62 structures destroyed
Fire Name Area Date Fire Started Acres Burned Structures Destroyed; Fatalities
Powerhouse No. LA County, ANF, near communities of Lake Hughes, Elizabeth Lake, and Green Valley 5/30/2013 30,274 58 structures destroyed
Malibu (Latigo/Sherwood) Malibu, Latigo, Sherwood 10/23/1935 30,000 0 structures destroyed
Wright 1 Malibu Canyon 9/25/1970 27,925 103 structures destroyed; 10 fatalities
Magic Mountain ANF 7/20/1960 27,500 Forest research facilities & cabins destroyed
Newton Malibu to Zuma, Lake Sherwood in Ventura County 12/26/1956 26,000 100 structures destroyed; 1 fatality
Agoura-Malibu (Mandeville Canyon) Malibu to Agoura to Mandeville Canyon 10/23/1978 25,000 230; 3 fatalities
Topanga NW of Chatsworth and San Fernando Valley 9/28/2005 24,175 13 structures destroyed
Gale ANF, west of Bear Creek to Pine Mountain August 1957 24,004 No information found
Copper Santa Clarita Valley 5/6/2002 23,407 26 structures destroyed
Johnstone ANF 7/20/1960 23,170 Forest research facilities & cabins 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 (table continues from above)
By Acres Burned - 5,000+ Acres

"ANF" is abbreviation for Angeles National Forest

Fire Name Area Date Fire Started Acres Burned Structures Destroyed; Fatalities
Canyon (Canyon Inn) North of Glendora 8/24/1968 22,197 8 fatalities (firefighters) 2
Marple Marple Canyon, Castaic Area 8/26/1996 21,500 1 structure destroyed
Curve ANF, Azusa Canyon 9/1/2003 20,857 72 structures destroyed
Old Topanga Malibu and Topanga 11/2/1993 18,000 323 structures destroyed; 3 fatalities
Liberty (Malibu/Zuma) Malibu Canyon, Corral Canyon 12/11/1958 18,000 103 structures destroyed; 1 fatality
Pine East of Gorman 7/12/2004 17,418 15 structures destroyed; 1 fatality (firefighter)
Creek Kagel Canyon, ANF north of Sylmar 12/5/2017 15,619 123 Structures destroyed
Woodland Hills (Las Virgenes) Topanga Canyon, Malibu Hills 11/6/1943 15,300 0 structures destroyed
Polecat ANF 7/17/1960 14,737 No information found
Sesnon (Porter Ranch) Oil fields of Oat Mountain, north of Porter Ranch 10/13/2008 14,703 78 structures destroyed; 1 indirect fatality (vehicle accident)
Fire Name Area Date Fire Started Acres Burned Structures Destroyed; Fatalities
Trippet Ranch or Topanga Topanga Canyon, Malibu Hills 11/23/1938 14,500 350 structures destroyed
Monrovia Peak ANF 12/27/1953 14,135 No information found
Calabasas Malibu, Calabasas Canyon, Corral Canyon 10/28/1996 13,010 6 structures destroyed
Crown Agua Dulce to Palmdale 7/20/2004 11,966 10 structures destroyed
Sayre Sylmar 11/14/2008 11,262 604 structures destroyed
Decker Malibu area, Kanan/Decker 10/14/1985 11,000 6 structures destroyed
Arroyo 3 Spread from Tujunga to Arroyo Seco 1896 11,000 No information found
Topanga Topanga Canyon 11/6/1961 8,000 0 structures destroyed
La Tuna Verdugo Mountains, Burbank, Glendale, Sunland-Tujunga 9/1/2017 7,194 10 structures destroyed
Unnamed Fire ANF 1906 6,955 No information found
Fire Name Area Date Fire Started Acres Burned Structures Destroyed; Fatalities
Bel Air/Brentwood Bel Air, Brentwood 11/6/1961 6,090 484 structures destroyed
Rye Santa Clarita 12/5/2017 6,049 6 structures destroyed
Foothill SE of Action 7/17/2004 6,000 0 structures destroyed
Kinneloa Foothills above Altadena/Sierra Madre 10/27/1993 5,485 196 structures destroyed
San Gabriel Complex 4 ANF, Morris Reservoir, above Azusa 6/20/2016 5,399 3 fatalities

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) With little means of fire suppression against large fires at the time, this fire was reported to burn for nearly 3 months.
4) 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.


1898 Wildfire, San Gabriel Mountains

Wildfire near San Gabriel Peak as seen from Martin's Camp, August 1898. Photo from Forest and Water by Abbot Kinney.


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 14th largest wildfire (as of August 2018).


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 October 1933 29
Loop Loop Canyon near Sylmar November 1966 12
Wright 1 Malibu Canyon September 1970 10
Canyon (Canyon Inn) North of Glendora August 1968 8*
Hacienda La Habra Heights September 1955 6*

* 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 November 2008 604
Bel Air/Brentwood Bel Air, Brentwood November 1961 484
Trippet Ranch or Topanga Topanga Canyon, Malibu Hills November 1938 350
Old Topanga Malibu and Topanga November 1993 323
Agoura-Malibu (Mandeville Canyon) Malibu to Agoura to Mandeville Canyon October 1978 230
Station ANF, Flintridge August 2009 209
Kinneloa Foothills above Altadena/Sierra Madre October 1993 196
Malibu Hills Malibu November 1945 150
Creek Kagel Canyon, ANF north of Sylmar December 2017 123
Wright 1 Malibu Canyon September 1970 103
Liberty (Malibu/Zuma) Malibu Canyon, Corral Canyon December 1958 103
Newton Malibu to Zuma, Lake Sherwood in Ventura County December 1956 100

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