From the Burbank Community Book, 1944:
The Big Fire
ONE HUNDRED BURBANK HOMES DESTROYED WITHIN SPACE OF FEW HOURS
During the afternoon of Saturday, December 2, 1927, a resident of the La Crescenta locality, on the other side of the Verdugo Hills, was burning trimmings from the grape vineyard on his premises. Before the fire had finished its course, both sides of the mountains had been burned over, one hundred and ten Burbank homes were destroyed and that number of families were made homeless, within the space of a few short hours. The estimated loss in Burbank alone was $500,000. One of the miracles of the episode was that there were fourteen homes in the direct path of the conflagration which were not even scorched. The only personal injuries suffered resulted when a truck turned over and the driver losing his bearing when driving through a cloud of dense smoke.
It was generally conceded by experts on fire hazards that the only thing that prevented the destruction of all the residents above Tenth Street, and possibly above Kenneth Road, was the fact that the wind changed to a sufficient degree by the time the fire reached Sunset Canyon Drive to prevent the catastrophe from continuing its destructive way.
As a result the damage in connection with the homes involved was confined to the Sunset Canyon residential section, which consisted of a mile or more of homes valued all the way from one to five thousand dollars, or more each.
By nine o'clock in the evening of the 2nd the fire climbing up the other side of the hills began to show on the ridge of the mountains. No particular uneasiness was felt on this side of the hills because of the feeling that it would surely be stopped at the top. By midnight indications from this side left the assurance that it had been brought under control. So much so, in fact, that many of the residents of the canyon retired for the night.
It soon became evident that the effort to stop the flames at the top of the ridge had failed and a clarion call came down Sunset Canyon for the residents to flee for their lives. Those awake and realizing the situation, hurried from door to door warning their neighbors, waking up chose who were asleep and urging them to make haste before it was too late.
Then came a grand scramble of householders to flee the menace following closely at their heels. A few of their most precious belongings were hastily thrown into their automobiles, and together with the members of the families, including the cats and dogs vied with each other in making the speediest exit possible from the canyon. It was considered a miracle that a traffic jam was avoided, with consequences hard to imagine in tragical directions. As it was, many escaped by the skin of their teeth, as they saying is, with only split seconds between them and catastrophe of unknown severity.
Expert fire-fighters were heard to remark that in all their experiences in fighting fire they never saw the like in the speed of the oncoming flames. The members of the local fire department, at that time under the direction of Homer Davis, fire chief, gave a most excellent account of themselves. It wasn't long until they had a string of 2200 feet of brand new fire hose reaching far up into the canyon. S. O. S. calls to the county fire warden's office, and to neighboring fire departments were answered by groups of experienced fire-fighters and their equipment from Glendale, Los Angeles and North Hollywood. At one time there were eleven fire departments represented on the fire-fighting fronts.
To meet the situation civilians were pressed into service in large numbers. The police department took charge of rounding them up. Police officers went up and down the boulevard, in and out of the pool halls and other public places where crowds were in the habit of assembling, ordering all to report at the firefighting headquarters. Voluntarily if they would and with the force of the law behind the request, if necessary. One man was arrested and put in jail because he refused to join the fire-fighters. The male part of a high-toned social event at the Elks Hall was raided by the officers for fire-fighters. They were not even given time to change their society for their fire-fighting clothes. As a result there were quite a number of tuxedo-attired gents noticed on the fire-fighting front. Even the women folks appeared on the fighting front with wash-boilers full of coffee and wagon boxes full of sandwiches which were distributed among the fighters, some of whom put in stretches of 24 hours without a let up.
It was well along in the next day when the fire, which spread to other parts of the mountains, was finally subdued. Most of the victims who lost their homes in Sunset Canyon also lost practically all their household belongings. Only one of the families, the late Will Marks family, saved practically all of their household effects. Realizing the possibilities they moved out bag and baggage in the afternoon, Saturday. The temporary homeless were given shelter in the various homes in the city.
Most of the families living between Tenth Street and Sunset Canyon Drive had their most precious effects loaded into their automobiles ready to flee if it became necessary as it seemed to at times. Usually one member of the family remained behind to do what could be done with the garden hose or other fire protective apparatus to save the home. Sparks by the showers fell on this section of the city setting fire to clumps of weeds or other inflammable material.
When at its peak the situation was as nearly like what is expected at the Judgment Day as could be imagined. With sirens shrieking, men and women screaming, the wind blowing a gale and volumes of the blackest kind of smoke blackening out even the brightness of the flames.
While many new homes have taken the place of the destroyed ones, many a stark chimney and charred remains of the houses destroyed still remain as a tragic reminder of the greatest catastrophy which has ever struck the Burbank community.
The big fire proved to be the beginning of the end of the thriving and prosperous Sunset Canyon Country Club which had flourished for a number of years. While the big, handsome clubhouse overlooking the valley was left untouched by the flames, a smaller, but attractive clubhouse which had served as headquarters in the beginning was burned.
As a feature of the club a membership entitled the member to the purchase of a cabin-site. Many of the homes lost were of this type and those who did not rebuild retired from the organization. One calamity after another followed the havoc played by the tire. With the surrounded hills denuded of vegetation the floods came with the subsequent downpour of rains, being in the middle of the rainy season.
Resulting from an unusually severe downpour mud and debris from three to five feet covered almost the entire expanse of the 9-hole golf course on the grounds, taking something like $10,000 to put it back into condition again. The officials made a heroic effort to keep it going but finally had to give it up. And with the giving up Burbank lost one of its convenient and attractive social headquarters. Probably no better place to get an inspiring view of the valley below than from the large expanse of concrete balustrade approaching the clubhouse's main entrance.
The building has since been taken over by the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and is now the district headquarters for that organization. With the improvements added since they took it over it is even more attractive than before.