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tv   1962 Documentary Design for Disaster  CSPAN  November 30, 2014 9:30pm-10:01pm EST

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snapped back in place, and the rifle is functional again. the longer would the rifles be made individually. congress wanted people to know exactly what this rifle was people and they granted him the rifle, they put the decorative plate on the butt of every rifle. one of these showed up on the "antique roadshow" a couple of years ago. the second one we know exists. i bet there are more. have you ever seen one with a plate like this? >> you are watching american history tv. >> pilot joseph baron. 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter for information on our schedule, upcoming programs, and to keep up with the latest history news. night, cofounder of paypal. >> i would say the single
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overarching theme of my class and the books is people should competition. most business books tell you how to compete more effectively. mind tells you perhaps you should not compete at all. that is a founder or entrepreneur, you should aim for something like monopoly that is such a breakthrough that you have no competition at all. >> monday night at 9:00 eastern on c-span2. reel america brings you archival films that help tell the story of the 20th century. on november 6, 1961, a fire broke out near bel air, los angeles. over three days, it destroyed 484 homes, damaged 190 others, and burned over 16,000 acres. reduced by the los angeles fire department, this is a 1962
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documentary that tells the story of the fire, examines the causes and proposes actions to prevent such destruction in the future. this 30 minute film is narrated by actor william conrad. >> "design for disaster," the story of the bel air conflagration. santa ana, indians named it santana, the devil wind. when it blows, the plants wither, trees and brush become dry. the atmosphere grows tense, oppressive. tire easily and argue more. even the suicide rate rises during the months of the santa ana. this climate attracts 300,000 people a month to the city of los angeles who become permanent residents.
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they settle into hotels, apartments, homes along the coast, inland throughout the central residential sections to the far reaches of the valleys. some move up to the scenic, secluded hill area. lush vegetation softens the ridges and valleys and breezes blow clean. increasingly strong during a the late fall months of the santa ana and dangerously dry when there has been no rain. it is during this unstable period, the firemen fear the potential of the dry chaparral and oak all within the city boundaries of los angeles. the fastest burning groundcover in the western hemisphere. nestled in the cover, one of the greatest concentrations of high
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value homes in america. a serious problem in fire protection even under the best of conditions. on the morning of november 6, 1961, fire department dispatchers find conditions far from the best. the santa ana winds are strong. humidity and moisture rock-bottom, fire danger extreme. a condition of high hazard is declared throughout. standby companies are moved up to stations near brush areas. to strengthen the circle of protection. even as they move, trouble strikes. at 8:15 a.m., an alert of fire is relayed to the officer in command. >> all units concerned, it reported brush fire in the mountain area. 3600 block stone canyon. >> the division chief responds immediately.
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clouds of smoke are already vigi visible. the chief calls for additional companies. the fire is starting from its point of origin north of mulholland on stone canyon, it spreads out in three directions. the first arriving unit succeeds in stopping it before it reaches several homes. but there is no stopping it on the south. the winds are driving the flames fast and hard. the chief declares the condition a major emergency. the master plan of defense against the serious brushfire begins. support from air tankers requested. 15 additional companies rollup. all key personnel are alerted. deputy and division chief move up to take command. radio messages crackle in. >> the fire is heading straight down stone canyon. >> move directly into the fire.
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>> the fire has jumped mulholland headed toward bel air. to these men, brushfires are routine, but this one is pushing them hard. the flames head uphill. firemen with high-pressure hose streams knock the fire down as it tries to make the jump as it did over mulholland. but in the canyon between, there lies the problem. rough terrain impedes fire crews in meeting the flames head on. the fire sweeps canyon walls threatening residential areas ahead. chief engineer william miller arrives to take charge of fire operation.
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the conditions prompt him to order everything available into the fire. time is vital, the fire is spreading, growing by the minute. air tankers sweep in. fire danger is compounded by the santa anas, driving through at 50 miles per hour. 100, 200, 300 feet ahead, spot fires appear from nowhere. all off-duty firemen are recalled to hold back what may come if the wind plays tricks. and the wind does. embers blow ahead of the fire to fall on the opposite side. fire is west out of stone canyon. fire officers alert the command post of the new outbreak. >> i can see the fire on the west side. it has jumped at least 500 feet
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further south. >> it is now out of control. >> responding apparatus is directed in by helicopter. defense forces are split once again to handle the two additional fronts and equipment and manpower. the fire grows with the wind. flames begin spreading at the rate of 13 acres per minute. tactic change from offense to defense. the approaching fire to begin the necessary techniques of hit and run firefighting. get ahead of the fire, take a stand, knock it down, move ahead again, always stay ahead of the fire. the firemen almost in the dark
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fight to keep flames confined to a single home. the fire is below them, sweeping south. going up ahead with the wind dropping ahead of the men. the firemen are no longer ahead of the fire. field commanders request more and more help as the flames spread. >> unless we have companies, we are going to begin losing more houses. >> it has already jumped supposed to -- so pulled it up. -- it is already jumped sepulved a. houses are going up. about 15 houses. >> we are dispatching everything we have. >> everything is not enough. badly needed help coming from county firefighting units. 22 rigs are at the fire.
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10 more are on the way. operators work ahead of the flames. 23 surrounding municipalities. they were allowed to fill the vacated stations to cover for the city companies that have moved into the fire. fire officials decide where residents may remain and where they may not. decisions are based on the prime consideration of any fire, safety to human life. ahead of the fire, police officers are hard-pressed to control the evacuation of residents. while they work, radios send messages of trouble. >> we need police assistance to evacuate these people. we are going to lose civilians if we don't get them out of here. >> there is a lady having difficulty breathing. she has been sick and is trapped in the fire. >> we have a school bus trapped. the children, the driver and the , bus are trapped. >> we have people trapped on
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foot. we need help from the police department. >> the house is on fire. there is a lady trapped. >> congestion blocks fire trucks, everyone must use the same narrow streets, no crossroads connect the steep canyons. fire easily jumps the bridges. firefighters must drive miles to go around. sightseers add to the problem. police are forced to arrest many who move in to get a ringside view of disaster. disaster it is. in the canyons on the hillsides, , on the ridges, houses are burning. smoke blacks out the sun. firemen work in close as it drives into the crevices of wooden roofs through windows, , into ventilators. windblow in held by fire
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that bends high-pressure hoses and wind that whips roof fires into the bellows of flames. where the men have water to fight with, they are holding their own. without warning, some don't have water. first the pressure, then the des.r itself rece fire companies are backed up by waves of flames. the situation becomes one of scattered running battles as fire crews pick individual targets. water is drafted from swimming pools were ever possible. where water is limited, homes burning must be passed by. hundreds of others threatened are just starting to burn. a difficult choice must be made. which to fight and which to
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forfeit. houses with combustible roofs and those too close to brush our poor risks. once they extinguish, they catch fire again and again. nevertheless, the firemen try. air tankers come in low and often despite collision hazards. only a limited number may .perate r even their biggest loads will not affect the central fires. they do their best work in conjunction with ground crews to prevent fire spread. more equipment is moved in as fires sweep south at incredible speeds. every burning thing that can be torn was by the wind is hurled ahead. fire leaps from wood roof to wood roof. spot fires appear everywhere. fused together to feed the parent blaze a blaze which is no
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, longer just a major brush fire, just a group of burning buildings. it is a full-scale conflagration. on the move, headed for the thickly populated areas of every residential section north and south of sunset boulevard. there is one chance, every piece of equipment not actively involved in saving structures is being ordered north of sunset. homes disintegrate as embers are carried high into the atmosphere. firestorms burn along residential stretches. there is no clearly defined fire front. it is as if an enemy force suddenly launched a paratrooper attack behind the lines of defense. attempt tochiefs
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maintain order where sectors no longer exist. firemen fight in smoking closed darkness. some have no water. in their concentration on the jobs at hand, none can know four new crises are taking form. six miles northwest in a remote area, a second major brush fire has broken list. destroyed nine homes and is racing toward the main fire to eventually blacken 10,000 acres. companies are pulled from upper stone canyon to help counter units fight the new blaze. east, anothernyon brushfire is deliberately set. respond, the air
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tanker is directed ahead of their arrival to delay progress of the fire. in brentwood, a third crisis. west of burning bel air a , completely unexpected phenomenon takes place. firebrands are dumped on this heretofore untouched section. in residential areas and hills above, the embers spread. up as if anes blaze incendiary attack has been launched. vitally needed equipment must be pulled from critical areas and diverted to this new front. at the same time, a fourth emergency hits. clouds of sparks soar over the new freeway complex to envelop ridges of west supported up sepulveda canyon. it breaches the largest man-made firebreak in the city. it seems hopeless. everything possible is being
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thrown into the path of the conflagration that will not stop. civil defense and neighboring municipalities are taxing themselves in the fight against time and the 20-mile perimeter of sweeping flames. men do not know where the fire stops or where it begins or how far it will go or how much longer. too many streets, too many homes, too many fires. for only 3000 men to fight. to these men, the whole thing seems unreal. this is the heat that will not cool, that water will not quench the wind will not stop. ,this is a fire that will not be whipped. in late afternoon, they get their first break. the santa ana diminishes. the racing fire slows to a run.
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those still left in the burn areas get a look at the path that has traveled. but there is no time for contemplation. the fire is still burning heavily on the south and west flanks, still moving. the wind changes and grows stronger west and northwest. in its path lies one of the most heavily populated most exclusive, most hazardous canyons. as darkness moves in, apparatuses are withdrawn on the burn. they watch a sky full of smoke turn red from embers and reflected flames. the fire, once again, is on a rampage. like devils running before the wind flames began their climb to , the top.
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they shoot skyward on a direct line to the homes below. and the fight begins. firemen battle to keep their positions between homes as flames boil overhead and sweep the west canyon wall. within minutes, the canyon is smothered in a maelstrom of smoke and fire. below as more equipment moves in, firefighters take beatings in their stand between homes and fire. fire coats are charred and endurance tested. the lines hold. the men's hold. the homes still stand. as the fire swings north, a great concentration of ground forces moves against its line of attack and the city's most disastrous fire is finally beaten down to a smoldering containment.
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on november 7, the morning sun reveals the ruins. yesterday, they were homes trees, irreplaceable , possessions. fireplaces stand as tombstones of a row of dead homes on dead streets. 484 times, fire proved its deadly efficiency by incinerating what families had taken years to acquire. 6090 acres of black and hills, hills, canyons, and neighborhoods. over 3000 men, 240 fire vehicles, and 16 aircraft try to stop it. did stop it. but only after the hard-driving santa anna died down and gave them a chance. they broke the fire in 12 hours and saved over 2200 homes, a major college. not one single life was lost,
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not one critical burn case reported. the firemen had set a new record according to experts. wonder.l people fire victims and those who read about the fire asked the same question -- >> how can a brush fire get so far out of control within a well protected city? >> let's analyze this fire and see what did happen. some phases are difficult to explain. why is a framework of bare wood left unharmed? why does a roaring fire suddenly stopped in heavy brush as of cut by a knife? why do flames spare one house and consume identical dwellings on all sides? a general pattern of fire behavior can be explained. when a brush fire is traveling downhill, it is most open to
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containment. a wide clearance around the house gives firemen a break. the fire preheat canyons to ignition temperatures. as flames move uphill, the reaction can be almost explosive. a parallel to this reaction is demonstrated with a branch from hillside brush. the fire travels slowly held upright. reverse the situation and place the fuel above the fire. , burning brands start spot fires on the opposite side. where they merge with the original blaze, you will see fire that leaves and brickwork. no amount of wedding gown can stop it. no amountnown the --
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of wetting down can stop it. let's take a look at fire in action. brush fires create their own wind. treacherous and unpredictable. even seasoned news cameramen can be trapped. are further compounded by the santa ana, results can be disastrous. on the morning of the santa ana november 6, winds were moving in a southwesterly direction from desert to coast. at the same time numerous ridges , of the santa monica's were channeling ground wins due south. the winds were traveling in two directions in the path of the fire. when the fire reached bel air and consumed homes, heat lifted burning shingles 2000-3000 feet in the air.
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causing the upper-level wind currents to be carried well over a mile. scores of spot fires began spreading. this action is demonstrated in these pictures taken by ucla. the same picture increased to many times its original speed. deep in the smoke, burning shingles carry a mile and a half grow to new fires which join the main fire approaching from the east. this leapfrog phenomenon coupled with powerful ground wind created a unique fire problem. as one expert put it -- >> no one has ever faced this problem before, no definite plan of defense could be found. when a chain reaction of this type occurs a fire department , can do nothing more than pick
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out individual houses and try to save them. book firemen are further thwarted by the loss of water. how can a modern water system properly designed to meet emergency fire conditions fail to function? let's look at this simplified diagram of houses on the hill. when thousands of outlets are opened below the hill, water pressure is lost. regardless of the amount of water it above the houses. when the water supply comes from a distant location, unnecessary use simply drains the water from the upper system. we have considered water, wind, and weather. now there is the problem of how
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a house is constructed and where. suppose we live in a house above the congestion of the neighborhood below or in a house built over the brush or in a typical home with a combustible and louise to catch sparks and fire and a big picture window to let the fire inside. under any such conditions, not much of a chance. in 1959, experts surveyed portions of los angeles. they found a mountain range in the city, combustible roof houses closely spaced and brush covered canyons and ridges serviced by narrow roads. they called this a design for disaster.
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they predicted the bel air fire. and others sure to come unless citizens and city officials work together on a plan of fire defense. the prediction was nothing new to firemen. they have their own ideas about people who don't like water pumping stations in their neighborhood because they feel they are unsightly. or homeowners who refuse to cut brush away from their homes. and those groups who maintained the last glowing ember that combustible roofs are not hazardous in fire areas despite the fact that over 600 cities have outlawed them. suchighters are thankful is not the thinking of the majority of citizens. it does not take a majority to start a fire. or to feed a conflagration. you are only as safe as your neighbors. if you live in a hazardous area, you are gambling that a fire will not start from hot ashes,
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cigarettes, children with matches, a faulty chimney, auto accident, a firebug, fallen wires, or lightning. these are the odds. if you win, you get to keep what you already have. if you lose, fire, the winner, takes all. >> ♪
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>> monday night, cofounder of paypal. >> i would say the single, overarching theme of my class and the book is people should rethink competition. most is does books tell you how to compete more effectively. mine tells you perhaps you should not compete at all and is a founder or entrepreneur you should aim for a novelty that is such a breakthrough that you have no competition at all. >> monday night at 9:00 on c-span2. >> you are watching american history tv all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on
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