Getty Fire Breaks out in Los Angeles as California Declares State of Emergency
California is once again battling wildfires across the state as the Kincade Fire rages on in Northern California and the Getty Fire erupted Monday morning in the Los Angeles hills.
With over a dozen wildfires blazing across the state, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency on Sunday. The largest fire, the Kincade Fire, is in Northern California wine country but by Monday morning a new fire, the Getty Fire, broke out in the heart of Los Angeles forcing the evacuation of thousands.
Residents in the Westside hills of Los Angeles awoke to emergency evacuation orders on Monday when the Getty Fire broke out shortly after 1:30 a.m. along the 405 freeway near the Getty Museum. The Getty Fire is eerily similar to the December 2017 Skirball fire that also burned in Los Angeles’ westside hill communities. Both fires could be seen burning in the hills along the 405’s Sepulveda Pass, Los Angeles’ main artery connecting the San Fernando Valley and the Los Angeles Basin and with an estimated 300,000 or more commuters traveling across it daily.
— Michael J. Duarte (@michaeljduarte) October 28, 2019
Within hours the Getty Fire had destroyed 5 homes and burned more than 500 acres, placing about 10,000 structures under evacuation orders. Prominent L.A. residents Lebron James and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger were forced to evacuate, with James’ announcing on Twitter that he and his family were driving around looking for a hotel in the middle of the night.
The Getty Fire is so-named for its proximity to Los Angeles’ most prominent museum, the Getty Center, as famous for its grounds and sweeping views of Los Angeles as its art collection which includes works like Vincent Van Gogh’s Irises painting. The center was built to withstand fire and declared on Twitter that its state of the art technology means the safest place for the Museum’s artwork during the fire was inside the building.
View north from the #GettyCenter Restaurant terrace toward @MSMU_LA. Firefighters are stationed here on lookout and to assist with logistics for helicopter operations of #GettyFire. pic.twitter.com/2Fb2Qmej4E
— J. Paul Getty Museum (@GettyMuseum) October 28, 2019
Newsom announced Monday that California has secured a fire management assistance grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help firefighters contain the Getty Fire and keep it from spreading into other nearby communities.
“California is grateful for the ongoing support as we battle fires up and down the state in extremely severe weather conditions,” Newsom said. “I thank our heroic emergency responders and volunteers for their tireless, life-saving work to safeguard communities across the state.”
Meanwhile California’s largest wildfire is burning in Northern California, just north of San Francisco near California’s wine country. Entering its fifth day on Monday, Sonoma County’s Kincade Fire had consumed over 66,000 acres, destroyed 96 structures and is only 5% contained.
PG&E Under Heavy Criticism for Role in California Wildfires
The current spate of fires across California is similar to the wildfires that consumed California in late 2017. Investigators ultimately determined that California utility company, Pacific Gas Electric (PG&E), was responsible for at least 17 of the 2017 wildfires.
As Citizen Truth’s Peter Castagno previously reported, PG&E declared bankruptcy in January of 2019 in response to billions in potential liabilities for its role in numerous California fires. Investigators determined in March that PG&E’s faulty equipment started the 2018 Camp fire, which killed 129 people and devastated tens of thousands of home.
In the hopes of preventing similar devastation, PG&E made the decision in early October to shut off power to hundreds of thousands of residents in fire prone areas in Northern California.
PG&E has been slammed for its handling of California’s wildfires with a California judge accusing the company of focusing on profits over fire prevention and tree-trimming work.
“PG&E pumped out $4.5 billion in dividends and let the tree budget wither,” North California District Judge William Alsup.
A recent report by MapLight found that since filing for bankruptcy in January PG&E has continued to spend funds on political lobbying, donating almost $150,000 to politicians with more than half of contributions going to out of state politicians.
In addition to the Kincade and Getty Fire, Santa Clarita, about 30 miles north of Los Angeles, has been battling the Tick Fire which had destroyed 29 buildings and threatened thousands more by the time it was reported at 70% contained on Sunday.
Last week another fire was reported in the Los Angeles hills on Monday in the Pacific Palisades but by Friday was reported at 75% containment, though it was still listed as an active incident on Monday. That fire consumed 42 acres but has not destroyed any buildings.
California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s website showed 15 active fire incidents across California on Monday from as far south as San Diego to the 350 acre Burris Fire in Mendocino County, north of San Francisco.
The 66,000 acre Kincade Fire is by far the largest, with the 97% contained Saddle Ridge fire near Simi Valley the second largest at 8,799 acres. The new Getty Fire may be among the smaller fires, but its proximity to heavily populated Los Angeles neighborhoods makes it especially concerning.