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Fire Plan Targets Illegal Parking on Hollywood Hills' Narrow Streets

June 24, 2004|Jason Felch | Times Staff Writer

City officials announced a new evacuation plan for the Hollywood Hills on Wednesday, targeting what they called one of the city's highest-risk areas for summer brush fires.

The plan, part of a three-year citywide effort to update emergency scenarios, includes the identification of refuge areas, police checkpoints and simplified evacuation routes.

Bottlenecks on the neighborhood's narrow canyon roads are a primary concern, officials said. As part of the plan, the Department of Transportation will tow away cars that are parked illegally on narrow hillside streets on "red flag days," when fire danger is high.

"We want to let people know we're going to be aggressive," Mayor James K. Hahn said at a news conference in Griffith Park. "DOT is going to give tickets and tow cars away."

In addition to Hollywood Hills, high-risk zones include the Santa Monica Mountains, Santa Susana Mountains, Mount Washington and Baldwin Hills in South Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Police Department plans to post fliers in targeted neighborhoods warning residents about the increased enforcement plan, and Fire Department officials have been meeting with neighborhood groups to discuss the plan.

When fire conditions reach the critical red flag level -- 25-mph wind and relative humidity below 15% -- illegally parked vehicles that restrict access will be ticketed and towed. Fire departments will notify residents by raising red flags over the 103 fire stations in Los Angeles. Last year, there were about a dozen red flag days, officials said.

"Brush conditions right now are typical of mid-August. That means the critical level could last longer," said Hollywood Hills Battalion Chief Mark Stormes.

But a number of residents in Hollywood Hills seemed unaware of evacuation plans and largely unconcerned about fire danger.

"Honestly, because it is so densely populated and people water their lawns, I never think of it as a fire danger," said Ruth Falcon, a resident of the hills for 12 years.

Fire officials said that both the foliage and the lack of recent fires in the area are cause for concern, not comfort, noting the Oakland Hills fire of October 1991 that killed 25 and destroyed almost 3,000 residences under similar conditions.

Ed FitzGerald, who has lived in the Hollywood Hills for 40 years, said illegal parking on the neighborhood's twisted roads has caused problems in the past. Pointing to a residential hillside dense with sycamore, live oak and cedar trees, he said, "Twenty-some years ago, those houses were on fire, and the big red firetruck got wedged in." The jam blocked fleeing residents and approaching fire crews.

What if it happens again? FitzGerald thought for a moment and said, "It would be one heck of a show."

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