A brush fire broke out and threatened homes Tuesday in the Beverly Crest area, prompting evacuations and a furious response by firefighters, but no structures were damaged.
The blaze, which quickly scorched an estimated 35-40 acres and had the potential to grow to 60, was reported just before 2 p.m. between Portola and Yoakum drives east of Benedict Canyon Drive, according to Margaret Stewart of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
By 5 p.m., the blaze was 10 percent contained and crews had made good progress, according to LAFD Capt. Erik Scott. Fire officials said the fire was sparked by a "weed wacker" being used by a contractor clearing brush in the rear of a home in the 9800 block of Portola Drive.
"There are still smoldering embers," Scott said Wednesday morning after crews increased containment overnight.
Firefighters used a drone fitted with heat imaging technology to watch for overnight hot spots and flare-ups.
Crews from the LAFD, Los Angeles County and other neighboring fire departments sent resources to the battle the fire. One county firefighter, a 39-year-old man, was taken to a hospital for a "non-trauma medical complaint," Stewart said.
Five helicopters made water drops and four fixed-wing aircraft dropped retardant on ridge lines and crews fought to contain the blaze within Benedict Canyon Drive to the west, San Ysidro Drive to the east, Yoakum Drive to the north and Portola Drive to the south, Scott said.
More than 250 firefighters were at the scene three hours after the flames erupted and sent smoke looming over the area east of Bel-Air. The fire burned uphill and in an easterly direction amid relatively light winds, Scott said.
Homes to the north, south and east of the fire were threatened and crews worked to protect them from the flames, Stewart said.
Evacuations orders were in effect during the firefight. In Beverly Hills, Benedict Canyon Drive was closed to northbound traffic at Tower Road and San Ysidro Drive was closed at Pickfair Way because of the fire, though no homes in that city were threatened.
"This serves as a strong reminder to residents to only use licensed contractors who follow the safety requirements to include no metal blades and extinguishing agent at hand," Stewart said. "The exhaust manifolds (on weed trimmers and brush cutters) can get very hot and is the likely cause of the fire."