Wildfire blazes behind LA observatory
LOS ANGELES ” Firefighters made progress early Wednesday against a wildfire blazing over Dante’s View in the brush-covered hills behind the city’s iconic Griffith Observatory. Animals at the nearby Los Angeles Zoo were moved indoors, and dozens of homes were evacuated.
The 600-acre blaze in sprawling Griffith Park was just one firefighters were battling across the nation. A wildfire in northern Minnesota has already destroyed 40 homes and buildings, and brush fires in Georgia and northern Florida have charred more than 200 square miles.
Overnight, five helicopters flew dangerous water-dropping missions in Los Angeles, helping fire crews get the blaze about 40 percent contained.
Griffith Park is a mix of wilderness, cultural sites, horse and hiking trails and recreational facilities set on more than 4,000 acres in the hills between Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley.
Visitors to its Greek Theatre, Observatory and the Museum of the American West were told to leave. At the Autry National Center, which includes a museum of Western artifacts, staff threw tarps over the collections to protect them in case the sprinkler system went off, said Faith Raiguel, chief operating officer.
The flames forced officials to put most of the Los Angeles Zoo’s 1,200 animals inside holding quarters.
“So far the animals are faring fine,” said Jason Jacobs, director of marketing and public relations for the zoo. “I haven’t heard any reports of anything going wrong.”
About 35 people who live near the park, out of an estimated 300 evacuated from nearby homes, checked in to an evacuation center at a high school.
“I was just able to get a few things,” said Ed Stephan, 83, who helped his wife into their car as ashes fell from the sky. “We’re not too worried but want to get out of here and observe the law.”
Authorities hoped residents would be able to return to their homes by evening.
The fire destroyed Dante’s View, a trailside terraced garden on Mount Hollywood, said City Councilman Tom LaBonge.
“This is a very sad night for Los Angeles,” he said.
Elsewhere in the region, a 300-acre fire near California State University at San Bernardino was 75 percent contained. There were no reports of damages or injuries.
In neighboring Orange County, a 140-acre fire in Featherly Regional Park and a 1,250-acre fire on a training range at Camp Pendleton were at least three-quarters contained.
On the East Coast, authorities evacuated about 300 homes in northern Florida as two fires totaling 130,000 acres ” about 203 square miles ” continued to rage on the Georgia-Florida line. Florida officials warned that they might soon need help if the blazes grow out of control.
A 107,000-acre blaze in Georgia’s Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge was called the largest blaze in state history and was nearing part of the park that has served as a fire crew command post. Another fire 10 miles away covered 40,000 acres.
The smaller fire crossed into Florida on Tuesday and was threatening Taylor, a small town with one store and no cell phone coverage, said Baker County Sheriff Joey Dobson.
In the Midwest, a wildfire near the Canadian border in northeastern Minnesota had burned 16,266 acres since it was spotted Saturday. It destroyed around 40 buildings, including multimillion-dollar homes, and forced more than 100 people to evacuate.
Authorities said they believe it started at a campsite just outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
“There are some houses up there where all there is left is the foundation,” said Leif Lunde of the Cook County Sheriff’s Department. No injuries were reported, but Lunde said about 30 of the burned buildings were homes or cabins.