Griffith Park Fire

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Griffith Park Fire
Location Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California
Coordinates 34°8′32.66″N 118°17′36.28″W / 34.1424056°N 118.2934111°W / 34.1424056; -118.2934111Coordinates: 34°8′32.66″N 118°17′36.28″W / 34.1424056°N 118.2934111°W / 34.1424056; -118.2934111
Statistics
Date(s) October 3, 1933 (1933-10-03) – ?
Burned area 47 acres (0 km2)
Fatalities 29
Injuries 150+
Map
Griffith Park Fire is located in the Los Angeles metropolitan area
Griffith Park Fire
Location of Fire in Los Angeles

The 1933 Griffith Park Fire was a brush fire that occurred on 3rd October 1933 in Griffith Park in Los Angeles, resulting in the deaths of at least 29 civilians who were trying to fight the fire. It is one of the deadliest disasters for firefighters in the United States.

Background[edit]

During the dry summer and fall of 1933, thousands of workers financed by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation were hired to clear dry brush and to build trails and roads in Griffith Park.[1] On October 3, 1933, an estimated 3,780 men were working in the park in more than 100 squads of 50 to 80 men, each supervised by a foreman or "straw boss".

Fire[edit]

A little after 2 p.m., a small fire broke out in a pile of debris, in Mineral Wells Canyon. Many of the workers volunteered or were ordered to fight the fire, but it spread up the canyon. Since there was no piped water in the area, the men tried to beat out the fire with shovels. Foremen with no knowledge of firefighting initially directed the effort, setting inappropriate back fires and sending hundreds of workers into a steep canyon. The fire department arrived at 2:26 p.m. but found it hard to fight the fire, because of the presence of thousands of untrained people.[2] When the wind changed direction about 3 p.m., the fire rushed up Dam Canyon, jumped a hastily constructed firebreak, and advanced on the workers, killing dozens and injuring more than 100. By nightfall the fire was under control, having burned about 47 acres (19 ha).

Aftermath[edit]

Because of the disorganized nature of the deployment and the often inaccurate recordkeeping of the work project, it took weeks to establish the exact death toll and identify the bodies. A month after the fire, the District Attorney's office put the official death toll at 29, although other groups claimed the number was 52 or higher.[2] The Griffith Park fire was the deadliest in the State’s history until the 2017 California wildfires.[3] The cause of the fire was never determined.

To commemorate the dead workers, a deodar tree was planted at the entrance to the park along with a memorial plaque. The plaque can no longer be found.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dolan, Jack (July 1, 2013). "29 L.A. firefighters lost in 1933 in Griffith Park blaze". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 27, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "The Griffith Park Fire". Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Archive. Retrieved August 27, 2014. 
  3. ^ "The Fire of '33". Glendale News-Press. October 1–4, 1993. Retrieved May 8, 2007.