Homeowner (at right) uses garden hose on roof of home as fire burns down slope of Verdugo Hills back of Burbank. Firemen were praised for work as no homes were destroyed by winddriven blaze.

Photo by Jerrye Linder

FIRST major brush fire of 1955 endangered more than 50 new homes in Burbank, Calif., at the base of the Verdugo Hills on Sunday, April 10.

More than 200 men from Burbank, L. A. City. L. A. County, and the Glendale Fire Departments battled the blaze for nearly six hours, under Chief William J. Taylor of Burbank, before it was controlled.

The fire broke out at 6:21 P.M. in Brace Canyon at the head of Scott Road and spread under tricky gusts of wind across ridges and ravines southeast toward Stough Park.

Five engine companies from Burbank responded immediately to the scene. After Chief Taylor arrived, he saw the imminent danger because of the high winds, and requested assistance under mutual aid agreements from L. A. City, County, and Glendale.

Request for mutual aid at 6:37 through the County’s Valley Dispatcher brought Engine 82, Camp 4, Batt. Chief James Pemberton, and First Asst. Chief Roland Percey.

Five minutes later Chief Percey ordered a full second alarm, and County Engines 63, 19, 28, and 182 were ordered to the fire along with Division 2 commander, Asst. Chief Harvey Anderson. Chief Engineer Keith E. Klinger also was notified and responded.

L. A. City rolled Engine 77, Engine 60, Tank 77, a bulldozer, and three patrol trucks. Asst. Chief Leonard L. Eggleston, Batt. Chief Jack Langston, and Capts. John Coxe and Russell Curtman of the Mountain Patrol also were ordered to the fire.

Meanwhile one Glendale pumper was sent to the fire lines and another Glendale company moved into Burbank Fire Headquarters to cover the city. Glendale Chief, Edward H. Aimans, also moved to Burbank H. Q.

Chief Taylor ordered off-duty firemen called to duty and also asked for two bulldozers and four large road department tank trucks.

Assisting Chief Taylor were Asst. Chief Mac. S. Darnaby and Batt. Chiefs F. Olchvany and Wayne M. Morgan.

An office of Civilian Defense rig from Glendale and one from South Pasadena under command of South Pasadena Chief Don Lavenberg also were called into the area on standby.

Firemen first thought they would control the wind-fed blaze, but a sudden shift and gusts up to 50-miles-per-hour drove the flames over a ridge in McClure Canyon and southward toward the 2700 block of Kenneth Road and the 800 block of Irving Road.

Residents swarmed to wet down their rooftops with garden hoses as a wall of flame cascaded down the slope to within 100 feet of 25 homes on Kenneth Road and threatened another 15 residences on Irving Road.

Some residents bundled up belongings and a few fled as the flames came closer.

Combined forces held off the flames in this area, but just to the north, in the 800 block of Stephens Road, another gust of wind sent the flames to within 20 feet of at least one home.

Countless spot fires caused by the falling embers on rooftops were put out by the houseowners with their garden hoses.

No homes were burned, but the fire did destroy an 80-foot antenna on the slope at the end of Stephen Road which served television users in the area.

Hundreds of spectators throughout the eastern San Fernando Valley were attracted by the spectacular shooting tongues of flame and billowing smoke.

A king size traffic jam was caused, and all available Burbank Police reserves were ordered to duty.

Meanwhile, three additional juvenile forestry crews from the County Fire Dent, were ordered to work on the lines.

Shortly before midnight the fire was declared contained, although a few hotspots did remain.

Final survey showed 56 acres of land, most of it watershed cover, burned off.

Chief Taylor said the fire probably was caused by “humans,” but investigation as yet has failed to turn up the culprits.

Modernized Fire Training in Richmond

The Bureau of Fire in Richmond, Va., is using a combination of on-thejob experience and formal training to instruct recruits in fire-fighting techniques.

Since January 1, 1955, Engine Company Number 11. where the fire tower and other special equipment are located, has been the center of recruit training activities. The men are instructed in and discuss fires, reports, knots, carries, driving safety, fire prevention, arson, fog and the use of various types of equipment. They attend school Monday through Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, they are assigned duties around the engine house. Before the recruit company was set up, new men in the bureau were assigned to various companies and attended training school for only 15 days. The officers directing the recruit training were handpicked on the basis of their ability. Each recruit as well as every other fireman receives a copy of the bureau’s manual.

Richmond has approximately 258 fire fighters and 131 officers. Because the bureau and the turnover is not large enough to justify a full-time recruit training school, it was decided that a company composed of the newest members of the bureau would be a logical alternative. The men not only have expert leadership during their training phase but also respond to calls and gain valuable on-the-job experience. When the recruits have enough experience, they are placed in other companies as vacancies occur.

Engine Company Number 11 is also the center of the bureau’s advanced training program for officers. From 9:30 to 11:30, Monday through Thursday, they attend lectures, which are refresher courses in all phases of fire work. They attend in groups of 40, a different group coming each day.

Guest speakers arc called upon to explain City functions especially pertinent to the Fire Bureau. The Chief of Fire Alarm and Police Telegraph, J. N. Fagan, discusses the function and operation of Richmond’s fire alarm system. Chief Lawrence Bowman describes fire prevention activities and goals. Marsden Smith, Chief Water Engineer outlined the water system and Melvin Lubman, Principal Personnel Administrator, points out various facets of personnel policies and procedures applicable to the Fire Bureau.

Officers Carry Training to Men

The officers, in turn, take the information back to their men where it is discussed. A schedule of things to practice daily, such as first aid or use of equipment, also has been established.

Before the recruit company and the advanced training program were set up, daily drill schedules containing techniques with which the firemen needed greater familiarity, were published by the Training Division. The men, then, worked on these techniques at their individual fire houses. Periodically, entire companies went to the fire tower for special instruction.

With the advent of the recruit company and the officers’ advanced course, training has become more formalized and operates on a continuous basis.

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