Fire in the Hollywood Hills

I walked out of my apartment to get some lunch Friday, when I thought … what in the hell is that?

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I turned on the radio in my car to learn that a raging fire was affecting the Hollywood Hills near Universal City and on top of Mount Lee — the home of the HOLLYWOOD sign. The sign was reported to possibly be in danger! Fortunately the landmark survived, but then we were surprised to learn that two kids from Illinois are reported to have started the fire!

I ran back to my apartment, grabbed a digital camera, and sped down Victory Boulevard towards Burbank. You can see the air become filled with smoke the closer I got, and fine particles of ash started falling out of the sky around the time by the time I got to Burbank Boulevard. As I got closer to the studios, the air smelled and tasted of hickory. The first shot here is at Victory and Burbank. The next shot is on Flower Street in Burbank. If memory serves me correctly, the last three shots are in the general vicinity of Alameda and Victory. Not being very familiar with the side streets of Burbank, I was taking an unintentionally circuitous route to get to where I believed the fire was. I need to keep my Thomas Guide in my car.

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You could see the smoke overhanging the studios, like Disney-ABC here on Alameda in Burbank.

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People seemed calm, but kept looking towards the hills. People pulled their cars off to the side of the road on Riverside Drive and snapped pictures.

I decided on a whim to jump on the 134 (Ventura Freeway), and tried to exit at Forest Lawn Drive. That would take me to an area of Griffith Park, which by now I realized was Ground Zero for the fire. Not surprisingly the exit to Forest Lawn Drive was blocked off — an ominous sign. I tried an end-around move, and drove up to the next exit, Zoo Drive, and drove as far up Zoo Drive as I could until law enforcement said I couldn’t go any further — the turn-off where Zoo Drive meets Forest Lawn Drive. These shots are taken at that point, across the street from the Traveltown Museum.

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Turns out Ground Zero was one mile west of here, at the corner of Forest Lawn Drive and Barham! I found the fire! At first I went home disappointed, thinking I hadn’t found it. But looking at the Thomas Guide, I realize I did.

One lesson I now realize — besides keep a Thomas Guide in your car at all times — is that when you’re en route to a breaking news story, you lose a lot of time if you don’t get the exact location from a source: be that source a scanner report, or a tip or confirmation from a human source. I wasted half-an-hour trying to find the fire based on hunches. Certainty is much better. If I had my Thomas Guide, and had paid more attention to the radio reports instead of getting all excited, I could have possibly seen the fire firsthand from the front side, instead of getting to the bar just in time for last call. Lesson learned.

It was a rush — a taste of what reporting so-called breaking news must be like. Happy spring break to me.

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~ by Hi-Lo Tone on March 31, 2007.

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