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Sepulveda Pass brush fire closes freeway for hours

October 24, 2008|Andrew Blankstein, Ari Bloomekatz and Jia-Rui Chong | Blankstein, Bloomekatz and Chong are Times staff writers.

It was just after 1 a.m. Thursday when Flo Bernstein awoke and realized her bedroom was filling with smoke.

The 87-year-old, who lives on Ridge Drive in the Mountaingate neighborhood along the Sepulveda Pass, looked out her doors and saw flames shooting up into the sky.

"I was very worried about the house," said Bernstein, who has lived there for 29 years. "It looked like the fire was racing up behind my house."

She changed into a lavender sweatsuit and grabbed some shoes and some insurance papers that were sitting on the table. She also packed up four boxes of her son's baseball cards, which he had given to her for safekeeping when he was evacuated from his house during the Porter Ranch fire.

"I grabbed the cards this morning -- that's why I didn't get my glasses," she said.

It was a morning of tense moments for residents dealing with the brush fire, which burned 100 acres near such landmarks as the Getty Center and Mount St. Mary's College.

The blaze closed the 405 Freeway for hours, making the morning commute miserable. Surface streets across the San Fernando Valley and Westside were jammed, as were canyon roads and freeways. But, in the end, no structures were lost and things were slowly getting back to normal by nightfall.

It took more than 400 firefighters seven hours and 45 minutes to extinguish all visible flames, and there were no injuries, said Brian Humphrey, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Officials had feared the blaze could spread west toward Mandeville Canyon and Brentwood. But wind speeds decreased and firefighters were able to contain the blaze before it could spread.

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andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

ari.bloomekatz@latimes.com

jia-rui.chong@latimes.com

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Times staff writer Ruben Vives contributed to this report.

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