Residents Worry About Future of Griffith Park

The 800-acre wildfire in Griffith Park this week was the park's worst fire in more than four decades. Those who use the park are now wondering about its future.

Frank Stoltze: At the base of one canyon near the Greek Theater in Griffith Park, Los Angeles Firefighter Russell Rueda shoveled dirt over yet another hot spot. He had been here before – Tuesday night when the fire took off, forcing evacuations and a fierce battle between firefighters and flames.

Russell Rueda: This place was an inferno. This whole area. We had about two hours' sleep. So we're kinda dragging, but it's not too bad right now.

Stoltze: The winds died down yesterday. By noon, the fire chief called the blaze "controlled." Firefighter Ron Spears was relieved.

Ron Spears: As long as the wind doesn't pick up, the humidity drops. That could cause us some problems. But we're doing good.

Stoltze: And what's the biggest challenge fighting a fire in Griffith Park?

Spears: Terrain. It's the terrain. Terrain and tight streets. A forest in the middle of a metropolitan city.

[Sound of helicopter]

Stoltze: Much of the past 36 or so hours involved frantically moving air and ground resources around, keeping them in front of the blaze. As they got the upper hand, fire managers began pulling engines back.

Firefighter on Radio: Roger. Be advised we are not getting any more city resources from OCD. They denied our 15 engine company request. We're trying to reconcile companies to give you what we can. We'll get it to you as soon as we can.

Firefighter on Radio: That'd be great. Let us know what you can release or reassign.

Stoltze: James Moreno is a gardener at Roosevelt Golf Course, one of four courses in Griffith Park. All the turf survived, but a lot of brush and trees on the hills above Roosevelt are gone or burned to toothpicks.

James Moreno: It looks like everything's pretty much to a crisp, and all you see is the mountain now. I feel bad for the animals that had to run. Either run or burn, but hopefully, they ran.

Stoltze: Moreno said his supervisor was the first to spot a 23-year-old man who may have been connected to the fire. Moreno said the man was on fire and asked for help shortly after the blaze broke out. Moreno said the man told his supervisor he had fallen asleep in the bushes while smoking. Police have questioned him.

The 800-acre-plus fire is the worst in Griffith Park in four decades. Aleem Hossain, who takes regular walks in the park, imagined how that ritual might change.

Aleem Hossain: Ya know, Central Park gets a lot of press for being such a great park for New York. But Griffith Park's a pretty great place. And it's sort of undersold, you know, oftentimes, by the city. But I love this park. I don't want to move from Los Feliz, because it's one place I can walk regularly, like into nature. And now it's all charred. I mean, it's kinda interesting to look at, its different, but yeah, I'm sure in a couple months when there's no trees, we're going to miss it.

Stoltze: L.A. City Councilman Tom LaBonge said he'll propose an emergency ordinance banning all open flames in the park for the rest of the year, including barbeques, for the rest of the year. Hossain said that would alter the way people use the park.

Hossain: We walk up on weekends. There are so many families up here grilling and playing soccer. So that's kinda sad. But on the other hand, I don't want to have the park burn down.

Susan Burritt: My use of the park is I pretty much walk it every day. And the reason I do that is 'cause I walk and pray. And up from the park you can see the whole city, you can see the Hollywood sign. So I just pray over the city, over the Hollywood sign.

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