retired, said. "It was moving extremely fast, faster than anything we
had experienced before."
The College Hills fire was started by an arsonist near where
Verdugo Road and Glendale Avenue meet, Markss said. Once ignited, it
was driven into a firestorm by wind and hot and dry conditions,
according to Glendale Fire Department Chief Chris Gray.
Officials suspect former Glendale arson investigator and convicted
serial arsonist John Orr of starting the blaze.
Once it reached the top of the hill, the College Hills fire flew
across the Glendale (2) Freeway like a blowtorch, said Markss, the
fire's incident commander. By the time the wind died down and the
firefighters had put out the blaze, it had destroyed 46 homes,
damaged 20 others and caused $50 million in damage.
"In terms of homes burned and partially burned, it was definitely
the worst one ever," Markss said.
While no fires since have caused damage to the area like the
College Hills fire, the Glendale and Foothill communities have seen a
number of major brush fires over the years.
The San Rafael Hills fire on Dec. 22, 1999, could have been at
least as catastrophic as College Hills.
Believed to have been started by a fallen electric line behind
Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge, the fire came at a time
when conditions were at their worst -- low humidity, dry fuel and
50-mph winds. The fire was soon blowing over the mountain into
"When I saw the fire, I thought, 'Uh-oh, I'm in trouble. I'm going
to lose houses,'" incident commander and Glendale Fire Battalion
Chief Don Wright said. "All I could see was this wall of flames
coming up over the hill from La Canada into Glendale."
The flames gorged themselves on dry brush and were shoved
laterally by the winds, rising higher than 100 feet in some places,
Capt. Wayne Lee of the Los Angeles County Fire Department's
Station 82 in La Canada Flintridge was on the first engine to the
fire on the La Canada Flintridge side. It was moving like a freight
train when it burned into Glendale, he said.
"It had a mind of its own. It was laying all the way across the