The dispatcher's voice splintered the stillness of the fire
station at Van Nuys Airport at 12:51 a.m. Thursday -- abruptly squelching the
pilots' hopes for a night's sleep.
"Reported brush. 405 Freeway south of
In less than nine minutes -- at 1 a.m. -- Glenn Smith was
circling over the fire in his Bell 206 helicopter, trying to assess the
It looked *** A moderate Santa Ana had funneled south through
Sepulveda Pass, driving narrow torrents of flame up draws in the hillside, to a
line of town homes on the ridge. His pilots would have to lay siege to that "hot
flank" to keep it away from the homes.
Smith, a command pilot for the Los
Angeles Fire Department, circled clockwise to look out his right window. He
flipped on his Nightsun searchlight to scan for power lines or any other danger
hidden in the dark. Nothing.