About 40 firefighters took an hour and 45 minutes to put out a fire caused by high-voltage power lines knocked down by gusty Santa Ana winds in a hilly region on the campus Wednesday night.
The fire, in Yosemite Park, was confined to a two-acre area, LAFD spokesman Brian Humphreys said, adding that nobody was hurt and there was no damage to property.
Eight fire engines and an LAFD helicopter responded to the fire, Humphreys said, adding that the first firefighters got to the scene of the blaze shortly before midnight.
The blaze erupted near college dormitories from where Occidental College’s Department of Campus Safety evacuated 200-300 students as a precautionary measure, Oxy's Director of Communications Jim Tranquada said. The students were taken to Rush Gymnasium and they returned to their dorms around 2 a.m., after the fire was put out, Tranquada said, adding that "the LAFD did an amazing job of extinguishing the fire."
The fire burned patches of grass in a hilly, undeveloped region on the block of 1921 N. Campus Rd., which stretches to some 30 acres.
The fire was sparked by power lines that had snapped because of winds blowing at 70-80 mph, Humphreys said.
The fallen power lines arced wildly on the ground, causing brief but intense blazes that ignited the grassy landscape, Tom Weng, a firefighter who battled the blaze told Eagle Rock Patch.
Fortunately, the grass wasn’t as dry as it might have been, Weng explained, and the fire did not spread rapidly even though embers shot out from the burning areas.
Gusty winds blowing from the east spread the fire westward, Weng said, adding that firefighters used a 500-foot, one-inch hose to control the blaze and dampen the vegetation in the fire’s path.
A metal fence that separates the tree-lined park from a residential area nearby was charged with electricity from the fallen power lines, Weng said, adding that one of the firefighters received an electric shock from the fence but wasn’t injured.
“This is one of the worst winds I’ve seen,” Weng said, as tall Eucalyptus trees swayed violently overhead. The downed power lines continued to flicker sporadically, illuminating the surrounding landscape in a white light that, Weng said, initially emitted an intense heat.
The firefighter, from LAFD Station 50 on Fletcher Avenue, said fire trucks and engines from as far as the University of Southern California responded to the blaze. Weng himself was initially on a call to cut a tree that had fallen on power lines on Fletcher Avenue.
“We had just gone back to the station when we got a call for something in Eagle Rock,” he said, referring not to the blaze at Yosemite Park but to another fallen tree somewhere in the neighborhood.
“We were passing by—and this seemed like a bigger incident, so we added ourselves to this,” Weng said. Firefighters would probably remain on the scene until the morning to ensure that no fires resume, he said, adding: “We have to babysit this.”