The fires rampaging across Southern California on Wednesday ripped through a Bel-Air canyon in the hills above UCLA, an elite enclave where backyard tennis courts are the norm and Rupert Murdoch owns a $30-million vineyard estate.
As evening fell, the Skirball fire had scorched 475 acres of thick chaparral, destroying four homes on Moraga Drive at the bottom of the canyon and Casiano Drive on its west ridge. Eleven more houses had been damaged.
The fire brought back memories of the 1961 Bel-Air fire, in which movie stars including Maureen O’Hara and Fred MacMurray fought to save their homes — a seminal event that fed apocalyptic visions of Los Angeles for decades to come.
Wednesday’s fire drew on another iconic aspect of L.A. life: a soul-crushing traffic jam on the 405 Freeway.
More than 350 firefighters, 52 engines and six fixed-wing aircraft also were fighting to keep the fire in the heart of the canyon, away from homes.