Open main menu

The Bel Air Fire was a disaster that began as a brush fire on November 5, 1961 in the Bel Air community of Los Angeles. 484 homes were destroyed and 16,900 acres (68 km2) were burned. The fire was fueled by strong Santa Ana winds.[1]

Bel Air Fire
LocationBel Air, Los Angeles, California
Date(s)November 5–8, 1961 (PDT)
Burned area16,900 acres (68 km2) to
Causebrush fire
Land useResidential, wildlands
484 homes
Non-fatal injuries112 (est.)[1]

There were multiple celebrities affected by the fire. Actors Burt Lancaster, Joan Fontaine, and Zsa Zsa Gabor, comedian Joe E. Brown, Nobel laureate chemist Willard Libby and composer Lukas Foss lost homes in the fire. Others that fought flames before they evacuated were former Vice President Richard Nixon, actor Robert Taylor, film producer Keith Daniels and singer Billy Vaughn.[2]


As a result of the Bel Air Fire, Los Angeles initiated a series of laws and fire safety policies. These included the banning of wood shingle roofs in new construction and one of the most stringent brush clearance policies in the US.[1]

The Los Angeles City Fire Department produced a documentary, "Design For Disaster", about the wildfire, narrated by William Conrad.


  1. ^ a b c staff (2014). "Bel Air Fire". Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Society. Archived from the original on 2011-12-30.
  2. ^ Harrison, Scott (November 7, 2010). "Bel Air Fire - Framework". Los Angeles Times.