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L.A. Zoo is closed and animals evacuated as fire flares in Griffith Park

Los Angeles Times logo Los Angeles Times 11/9/2018 Joseph Serna
a bird sitting on top of a cage © Joseph Serna / Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Zoo officials closed the facility Friday and were preparing to evacuate some animals as a fire burned in Griffith Park.

The zoo’s lemurs were among the first animals out, park employees said, and staffers also evacuated bird show animals as well as some smaller species.

Gallery by photo services

Officials said that early indications were that smoke from the fire was not causing health issues for the animals, but that staff was continuing to monitor conditions.

In addition to preparing animals for evacuation, workers were hosing down hillside areas most vulnerable to flames. Staffers said they could see the fire from their offices, but they have not been evacuated.

The fire, which sent plumes of smoke into the air as heavy brush burned, was spotted just before 8 a.m. near fire roads, hiking trails and a landfill in a remote section of Griffith Park, presenting a challenge for crews trying to access the area, said Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Peter Sanders.

a close up of a map © Provided by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services Fire engines were unable to get to the area, authorities said, so crews were hiking into the park to set up battle lines and determine how to get water to the blaze. Others were stationed in the zoo parking lot, waiting to be deployed.

But with little wind to complicate their efforts, firefighters spent the morning putting out smoldering hot spots outside the zoo with hoses and shovels. The landscape was charred black and gray, and low-flying helicopters buzzed overhead.

Within an hour of the fire first being spotted, several city, county and privately contracted water-dropping helicopters were orbiting the park trying to knock down the flames.

a man riding a motorcycle down a dirt road © Joseph Serna / Los Angeles Times As of about 9:30 a.m., the blaze had grown to about 30 acres, Sanders said. “There’s no wind here right now unlike in Ventura [County],” Sanders said, referring to the conditions crews are facing with a fast-moving blaze threatening thousands of homes to the west.

“Our priority right now is to protect the zoo property,” he said.

Though the fire was producing a thick smoke plume visible across a wide area, it was not threatening any structures by mid-morning, Sanders said.

Fire Department Capt. Alfred Leon and his crew were taking a break from digging containment lines when the brush behind their trucks started to crackle and smoke.

"Hey Cap, we got somethin’ working back here!" a firefighter yelled.

Leon and his crew then circled the dusty ridge and climbed up on top, where they began blasting water into the brush.

Friday's fire was as routine as could be given the location, Leon said, but "you're surrounded by a major metropolitan city, lots of brush, wildlife and tough terrain. It's absolutely challenging.”


10:30 a.m.: This article was updated with scenes from the firefight and additional details from zoo officials.

10:10 a.m.: This article was updated with photos from the fire.

9:35 a.m.: This article was updated with new acreage numbers.

8:40 a.m.: This article was updated with additional information about fire response and acreage burned.

9 a.m.: This article was updated with information on some animals being evacuated at the zoo.

9:10 a.m.: This article was updated with details from scene.

This article was originally published at 7:50 a.m.

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