Sept. 25, 1970: Randy Pearson, 18, kneels in front of his Chatsworth home as the roof goes up in flames. This Los Angeles Times image ran on Page 1 after brush fires in Malibu and Chatsworth combined into a 20-mile front, destroying 150 homes.
Over the next five days, Southern California fires killed 10 people, burned 500,000 acres, destroyed four churches, 400 homes and 190 other structures. Santa Ana winds were clocked at up to 80 mph.
Sept. 26, 1970: A statue of St. Francis of Assisi stands in front of Serra Retreat in Malibu, most of which was destroyed by fire. About 175 homes in Malibu burned. (Steve Fontanini / Los Angeles Times)
Sept. 25, 1970: Two teenagers toss pool water on flames in Chatsworth. Firefighters who later took over the fight at the home said the teens’ efforts helped to save it. (Bill Varie / Los Angeles Times)
September 1970: Firetrucks stand guard as flames from the Malibu Canyon fire race toward Pacific Coast Highway during the night. (Jack Gaunt / Los Angeles Times)
September 28, 2010, 12:15 pm
I was in 8th grade at Lawrence Jr. High during this fire. 1970-71: the Shake and Bake year at school. Huge black and white ashes from the fire were blowing all over campus as we sat down for 6th period History. A few minutes after the bell, a voice on the room intercom asked for one of my classmates to come to the Main Office. He returned a few minutes later saying he had to pick up his books and leave, his house up in the hills north of Chatsworth Street had just burned down. Then the Office asked for another student – same thing. This must have happened 5 or 6 times just to kids in my class; we were all shell-shocked after a while – it was a terrible, terrible day. Later we found out that the bushes on the north edge of the campus had even caught on fire at one point from all of the flying embers. I'll never forget walking home that day through the hellish blizzard-like ashfall…a few months later the Sylmar Earthquake turned our lives upside down again.
December 30, 2010, 8:42 pm
2 of my sisters were at Laurence JHS, 1 sister at Chats Park Elementary, I was at Chats HS, but out from school that day with a DR appt.. We lived west of Topanga Cyn. I remember it all like it was yesterday.. evacuating the school, mothers looking for their children, cryin, their homes were on fire.. swirling clouds of smoke, ash falling like snow, the hot dry winds, darkness at 3pm, we had trouble getting to our house because vof road blocks.. the chaos of people trying to evacuate and the canyons emptying all at once.. and the horses. The horses were turned loose in an attempt to save them. It was traumatizing.. Not a year passes and when those winds blow from the east that I dont wonder when and where the fire will start..
August 15, 2012, 12:49 pm
I was at Lawrence Jr. High in the 9th grade then. I recall the fire actually got across the street from the school (not sure how big it was there, but it did burn something). This was across the street from the shop classes.
September 9, 2012, 12:44 am
I remember this fire as if it was yesterday. I lived in Simi Valley at the time and I can remember the once blue sky, the color of red, the wind blowing 90 mph and my parents moving horses throughout the day and night. This fire started around the Sylmar area and didn't stop till it hit the pacific ocean. I remember my Mom cleaning off soot from the house for over six weeks. I beleive this was one of the worst fires in the Chatsworth/Simi Valley area to ever hit. It was horrible, something I will never forget!! Wish I knew where I could get more photos of it.
April 30, 2013, 11:27 pm
I see your hair is burning, hills are filled with fire…. I always wondered if that was about the 1970 fires. I was a tiny thing in 1970, the fires are one of my first memories. The sky was glowing red in every direction and it was raining ashes. In the 40 years since, the only fire that came close to the 1970 creepiness level was the 2009 fire which looked like a nuclear bomb went off.
September 25, 2013, 7:00 pm
Funny how some dates stick in your mind forever. 9/25/70 is like 2/9/71 to me. I walked home from Hale Jr High in Woodland Hills at 3pm in wind and smoke. That night, houses west of Valley Circle, where I lived, were evacuated, though I tend to think it was somewhat voluntary. Few if any of the homes in our area burned. Amazing that we all share similar memories from so long ago.
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