The 2005 Toganga Fire

September 28 and September 29 were very scary days for us. Although we live in a pretty area of the West San Fernando Valley among lots of hills and canyons, we live at the very last street at the bottom of a hill, and I never thought a wildfire would ever get so close to our home, even though California is prone to wildfires during the Santa Ana Winds.

These were taken by Diane from our front yard in the late afternoon after getting home from work.


On Wednesday, around 2:00 pm a fire started near Rocky Peak at the top of Topanga Boulevard near the Santa Susanna Pass. I could see the smoke from my office in West Los Angeles. By the time we got home that night, the fire had spread to Bell Canyon (where there are multi-millon $ homes) and was moving Southwest toward Las Virgenes and the 101 Freeway. It cut kitty-corner behind the hill that is three blocks up from our home. The same hill which burned on the 4th of July (we heard later probably from fireworks set off illegally). On that occasion, the water-dropping helicopters put the fire out in a matter of less than an hour

Looking West up Arminta Avenue about 6:30, the smoke and flames were growing. People were packing up and leaving. The firefighters said we were under Voluntary Evacuation at that tinme.




Looking up
Arminta Avenue,
a little later

Flames over Tony and Maria's rooftop


Well, on this occasion, we had a lot of smoke, and if you walked to the end of our street, you could see flames shooting up in the the Wolsey Canyon and Box Canyon area just north of us, which we heard had been evacuated. But we felt confident that it wouldn’t come our way. We managed to sleep, knowing the fireman were “on the job” and in the morning, we both went to work. I did put our birth certificates and passports in the car (we have an upcoming vacation and NOTHING will prevent my going!). I went to work, but by mid-afternoon, according to the radio reports I was listening to from my office, the fire after working its way almost to the 101 freeway had reversed because of a wind change, and had headed back toward Bell Canyon, Box Canyon and Wolsey Canyon. Well, our house is between Bell Canyon and Box Canyon. so I decided to leave work early. I’m glad I did. When I got home, the smoke behind the hill up from our house was thick and black and looked much worse than the previous evening. Allan wasn’t home from work yet, and so I bounced back and forth between looking at the news on television and going out in my front yard to check out the smoke. All was well until shortly before 6:30. At around that time, I walked out to make a check and was horrified to see a lick of orange flame cresting the hill just three blocks away.

This is a Med-Evac Helicopter landing in the park behind our house.

One street up the hill from our house.

Two streets up from our house .

The top of the hill.

Not the kind of thing you like to see in your neighborhood .

Our Heros.

Within minutes, it looked like the entire hill was ablaze. I can’t even describe how fast those flames expanded and moved. I could actually feel the heat on my face while standing in my front yard. I phoned Allan in his car, and luckily he was only a few minutes from home. Once he arrived home, I relaxed a bit, because by this time, the firefighters had arrived (three engie companies) and positioned themselves at the topmost street in our neighborthood – just at the base of that hill. Allan walked up the hill and took some photos. One of our neighbors reported back to us that he’d talked to the fireman and was assured that our homes were not in immediate danger. We should relax and they’d let us know if they wanted us to evacuate. They parked their trucks and basically, let the fire burn its way through the brush on the hillside, alert and ready in case it came near any of the houses in our neighborhood. All the while, helicopters and planes are flying overhead, and in fact, landing in the park that is just across from our backyard. I can tell you, that if you’ve never had a helicopter land so close to you, the sound of the rotors is absolutely deafening. They may as well have been landing on our patio as just across the street in the park. Well, to make a long story a bit shorter, let me say here that those fireman, who came from all over California to fight this blaze, are THE ABSOLUTE BEST. I (as well as many of my neighbors) offered to bring them food/water/pizzas, whatever they might need, but they said they had all they needed. They made us feel so safe, we were actually able to go to sleep that night with the hillside still ablaze, knowing those guys were three blocks up the road, protecting our homes. Literally standing between our houses anf the fire, ready to protect us. Allan goes to work very early, and when he left the house for work the next day at 6:00 am, he drove up the hill and there were still two engine companies there, keeping watch over our hillside. I don’t think there are words to describe how grateful we are to these wonderful guys who put themselves in harm’s way to protect all of us in these terrible times. I, for one, will remember forever, how safe they made me feel, when it looked like the entire Western San Fernando Valley was ablaze.

Hillside ablaze.

I saw people out
sitting in their lawn
chairs, watching
the fire.

Looking over a
neighbor"s roof.

View from our
front door about
9 PM