Total Pageviews

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

40 Years Ago Today: October 23, 1978 Mandeville Canyon Fire

photo credit:

Forty years ago today, October 23 1978, a fire broke out at 9:41am near Mulholland Drive and the 405 Frwy in the Santa Monica Mountains. Stoked by Santa Ana winds and very hot, dry conditions within a few minutes a large brush fire started moving westward.

photo credit: Julie Keese

This is one of the very few color photos I was able to find of the fire. Looks like it was taken from the roof of what's now the CVS pharmacy in the Palisades. The old RTD bus is at the intersection of Sunset Blvd and Swathmore.

photo credit: Palisades Post

Above: Via de la Paz, looking north from the business district. 

I was a student at Palisades High School. I pulled this and the next few photos from our school yearbook.

Thirty homes were destroyed in 
Brentwood and Pacific Palisades - it could have easily been ten times that number. By contrast, the 1991 Oakland Hills fire destroyed 3800 homes - and killed 25 people. 

Here's another color photo. It was actually a postcard, and was for sale for several years afterwards.The back of the postcard reads: "Santa Monica Mountains on fire-Fall 1978. The fire is nearly 10 miles wide in this photo taken from Venice, Calif. Photo and copyright by Jeffrey Stanton."

photo credit: Karl Edward Dean

Every year Southern California deals with brush fires. In fact, a few years back, another fire broke (below) next to the 405 Freeway - very close to where the Mandeville Fire began 40 years earlier. Fortunately, it was put out quickly.

photo credit:

My family's home came very close to being destroyed in the 
Mandeville fire. A few things I remember:

1) the 
speed of the fire. When I got home from High School, I literally thought the fire might be near our home sometime in the next day or two. We were evacuating within 2 hours.

2) the 
size of the fire. There is something terrifying about a 50-60 wall of flames several miles wide coming towards you. Trying to defend your home with a garden hose felt like a bad joke.

3) the 
smell of the fire. I get an awful feeling everytime I smell a fire - bad memories of October 1978.

4) the 
SOUND of the fire. This was perhaps the scariest thing of all. I still remember the low, loud roar. It was surreal.

Our family was very fortunate that the winds shifted just was the fire approached our street. Other families were not so lucky - loosing not only their homes, but everything inside.

photo credit:

The Marek fire (above) in the San Fernando Valley in September of 2008 was a reminder that brush fires in Southern California are not a question of "if" ... but "when."

As a Christian, I'm reminded that brush fires involve issues of environmental stewardship, protection of lives, protection of property, understanding the specific climate (Mediterranean) and topography (mountainous) of Southern California. Brush fires are NOT forest fires. Remember Smokey the Bear? Not the same here. In Southern California several of the native plants are designed to burn (there's that pesky "design" again).

One of my professors at UCLA stated that a fire every ten years is significantly less dangerous, less intense than one every fifty years.

"The probability for an intense fast running fire increases dramatically as the fuels [brush] exceed twenty years of age. Indeed, half-century old chaparral - heavily laden with dead mass - is calculated to burn with 50 times more intensity than 20-year old chaparral."
Mike Davis "Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster" pg 101

I have to now agree that it would make sense to have controlled burns of large uninhabited mountainous areas every 10-12 years - but most experts agree it will never happen - it would be political suicide.


.© 2018 - originally posted 10/23/2008

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Warner Bros Studio Tour, Part V

This time last year, my wife I and took my kids and their cousins (all teenagers) to the Warners Bros Studio Tour. here are links to Part I, Part IIPart III, and Part IV of our visit. 

The tour included a visit to Sound Stage (above), filming location for the Ellen Degeneres Show.

Always interesting to see what's involved in television broadcast. 

I'm not a huge Ellen fan. That's OK. My kids and their cousins found this part of the tour interesting. 

Lights and more lights. 

Originally, the earliest movies were filmed in New York, often on the roofs of buildings. But films, and later television shows, need good lighting, and Southern California's sunshine and generally dry climate made this possible virtually year round. Eventually, films were moved into sound stages, but by then Hollywood had a film grip on the burgeoning film industry. 

Hey, look, we're on the set for the Ellen Show. 

Back outside, our tour continued. I guess I like the palm trees outside the various sound stages. 

Warner Bros logo on the side of one of the many sound stages. 

Another look down the the massive and cavernous sound stages. At 62 acres, Warner Bros Studios is huge. 

A quick stop off at a display of some of more current Batmobile vehicles. I'm old enough to remember the campy but fun Batman TV show. The 1966 Adam West Batmobile can be found on Wilshire Blvd (in the Miracle Mile District of Los Angeles, at the Petersen Automotive Museum. At least it was for a time. Here's a link to a previous post on a visit to the Petersen. 

The most recent incarnation of the Batmobile. Meh. I like the 1960's version better. 

Driving by the guard gate, featured in the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy Blazing Saddles

Warner Bros Studio is so big that it actually has it's own fire department on site. 

Favorite photo: it's not what we saw, it's who we were with. 

I was hoping to finish up this five part series on our studio tour with something profound. I guess that'll have to wait for another day. 

The tour concluded with a display of models and other artifacts from various Warner Brothers films. This is a 1:100 model of Gatsby's Castle from the 2013 film The Great Gatsby

Images from various cartoons from Warner Brothers and Hanna Barbera (owned by Warner Brothers) cartoons. 

For those of you who grew up in the '90's, the tour concludes with a replica of the Central Perk set from the popular TV show Friends. Popular show, but I was never really a fan. And my kids were way too young. 

There's an Academy Award you can hold. "Oscar" refers to the statue, given out annual by the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences. Hence, the Academy Awards. The Award ceremony is held around the end of February / beginning of March every year. 

More studio memorabilia. 

Christoper Reeves cape from the 1978 film Superman. The film was "just OK". Even as a teenager, I thought the "spinning the world backwards" scene at the end ridiculous. I know it's "just a movie" but that doesn't excuse a silly script. 

Detective Harry Callahan's handgun from the 1971 film Dirty Harry

One of the "76 Trombones" from the 1957 musical The Music Man

The tour concludes with a final ride back to the entrance/exit. Behind me, my daughter and my niece. 

A final look down Hennesy Street. 

Here's a link to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour website. Tickets are $65, with a special $49 offer for Southern California residents. 

© 2018