Published Nov 6, 2019 at 12:13 PM | Updated at 9:30 AM CST on Nov 9, 2019
In November 1961, a disastrous brush fire destroyed nearly 500 homes when it roared over a mountain ridge and swept through canyons in Los Angeles' Bel Air community, a grim illustration of the potential for wildfire devastation in a densely populated area surrounded by steep terrain and dry brush.
The two-day Bel Air Fire disaster started in the Santa Monica Mountains and, fanned by seasonal strong Santa Ana winds, became one of the most destructive fires in the region's history.
Dubbed "a tragedy trimmed in mink" by "Life Magazine," the fire destroyed homes owned by big-name Hollywood stars, including residences of Burt Lancaster and Zsa Zsa Gabor. A Getty photo shows Richard Nixon, dressed in a shirt and tie, watering down a rooftop with a garden hose at a rented house on North Bundy Drive. He and wife Pat eventually evacuated, suitcases in hand, along with thousands of other residents.