Fire Ignites Reactions On Campus

Tony Alfieri, Robert Nigoghossian and Julio RodriguezFire

“It’s like watching fireworks,” said Tina Juarez, as helicopters and planes doused the sizzling mountainside.

Michael Giron of Atwater shook his head when he recalled discovering the blaze.
“I stepped out, “Giron said, “and there was just a huge mushroom cloud of thick, brown smoke.”

Onlookers and cell phone photographers, in awe of the fiery elements, paused on the Verdugo Road footbridge to capture the glowing devastation.

“The ashes got in my hair,” said student Michael Serot. “It made my eyes tear up, and red.”

Classrooms were no sanctuary for people sensitive to the drizzling ash and drifting smoke.

“When we opened the classroom door, ashes came in,” said psychology student Serine Uguryan, rubbing her eyes. “It was more of an inconvenience rather than a health problem.”

Meanwhile, the home of GCC professor and Griffith Park historian Michael Eberts was under the flight path of helicopters refilling at the Silverlake Reservoir.

“It was like a flying bucket brigade,” Eberts said. “The firefighters fought a little war on behalf of the park and the neighborhood. They were great.”

Peter Deranja, 22, of Los Feliz, chronicled the encroaching conflagration in his Student Development current events project.

“There were firemen in our backyard,” Deranja said. “When the electricity went out, we really got scared. Then we were evacuated.”

Campus police cadet Mike Arakian said that the school has an emergency plan that maps safe evacuation routes in case a fire comes close to campus, but conditions were not extreme enough to cancel classes that day.

“The station was flooded with phone calls all day, mainly asking about traffic conditions,” said Arakian.

Closures on Interstates 5 and 134 and streets bordering the park delayed traffic throughout the week, which meant lengthy drive times and late arrivals for those traveling through the area.

“The bus route I take from Hollywood to come to Glendale College was changed due to the closeness of the flames to where I live,” said student Gary Roberts.

Inessa Babalyan, 23, left from Reseda hours before class on the day of the fire because she was uncertain about conditions.
“I debated not coming,” Babalyan said, “but there was a quiz.”

Concern for the fire was unanimous.
“I’m worried about the animals living in the forest, people’s health and people with asthma,” said student Rebecca Wong, 22. “It’s just not good.”

Brittany Reid, 27, saw the flaming trees and brush from her office across the Los Angeles River. A frequent hiker, Reid said she and her boyfriend were upset by the destruction.
“We really love the park,” Reid said. “It’s a nice place for people without spending money. It’s sad to see it like this.”

Kristina Otto, 18, a native of Big Bear, echoed Reid’s sentiment.

“I love these mountains,” Otto said. “They remind me of home.”

Still, the colossal inferno bypassed the attention of some.

Edvin Karimi was in the music lab since the early morning and didn’t go outside until evening.

“I wasn’t aware of any fire,” said Karimi. “What fire?”

The last smoldering tree stump in the park was extinguished Sunday after an estimated 817 acres were charred, according to the Griffith Park Recreation Center office.

The Los Angeles Fire Department said the source of the fire is under investigation and no suspects are in custody.