By Hans Laetz
Water-dumping helicopters worked quickly to save a campground filled with more than 200 people near Malibu Creek State Park on a July Fourth
holiday and avert even worse consequences, as a fast-moving fire broke out and ruined the afternoon for the parkgoers. The fire shut down Las Virgenes Road for hours.
Los Angeles County and federal firefighters had the fire
"essentially out" after it burned for three hours near the historic
King Gillette Ranch, centerpiece of the Santa Monica Mountains
National Recreation Area. It claimed about 25 acres.
The fire broke out at about 3:27 p.m., reportedly as a resident
worked on a mobile home next to a landmark Hindu temple, about a mile
south of Mulholland Highway. The temple was not damaged as the fire
burned north along the eastside of Las Virgenes Road, jumping the
"The helicopters dropped water along the road to prevent [the
fire] from spreading across the way to the campground," said Kathy
Kirkpatrick, fire chief for the local National Park Service unit.
"Rangers immediately emptied the campground, which was only a
few hundred yards [from the point of] ignition.'' More than 55
campsites and a ground campground were at capacity, she said.
"Most of those people were packed into their cars and driven
out quickly," Kirkpatrick said.
"The fire did catapult across Las Virgenes Road and burned near
the campground entrance," she said.
As the evacuation was ordered, several dozen campers were away from
the main campground, along Malibu Creek near the old "MASH'' set.
Those people were allowed to stay there as the fire was blowing away
The fire burned a small hill south of the Gillette Ranchhouse,
whoch is destined to be the new headquarters for the three
overlapping parks agencies that operate in the mountains recreation area.
Rangers worked to ensure that a fire department bulldozer that
was cutting a line on the fire's north flank, near the ranchhouse,
did not damage oak tree roots and other fragile flora. The National
Park Service garage and maintenance center were also briefly threatened, but not damaged.
With the fire extinguished at about 6 p.m., state park
officials reopened the campground. Campers returned to the tents and other camping materials left behind during the hurried evacuations.
Most of the fire crews had left by 6:30 p.m., but patrols remained on the scene all night to be certain flare-ups didn't occur, firefighters