In the first week of December, 2017, a wildfire broke out in the hilly terrain of the Sepulveda Pass on the East side of the 405 freeway. The fire – named the Skirball Fire – quickly engulfed the steep hillsides and burned down to the edge of the 405 freeway.
The Los Angeles Community Eruv runs through the Sepulveda Pass and uses those hillsides as its western boundary. For many years, the eruv used the actual hillside as its wall, but during recent reconstruction of the freeway Caltrans installed a continuous “wildlife fence” through the pass which now serves as our boundary, instead. The eruv has a number of poles, lines and fence segments installed in the canyon to create a continuous wall bridging the streets and freeway ramps through the canyon.
While the fire raged, it was impossible for the Eruv committee to know whether the fire, or the firefighters had damaged or removed any our our required structures. With the canyon closed to all but emergency crews, there was no way for our eruv team to inspect the canyon. We announced that the Eruv was likely to remain down and unchecked through the upcoming Shabbos.
Late Wednesday afternoon, the fire department opened access to the canyon and our rabbinic inspectors were able to get in and check the damage. The hillsides throughout the canyon were blackened. Amazingly enough, all of our fences, poles, plexiglass walls and other installations in the canyon had emerged unscathed. We passed through the fire with some scorched and blackened fences, but no real damage.
As we walked through the burned-out canyon inspecting our fences, we saw that the poles and fences we had previously used to connect to the hillside were also blackened and scorched. When we checked our poles and lines where we bridge Sepulveda and connect from the freeway fences to the new hillside fences, we noticed something pretty remarkable. The fire had burned all of the hillsides and slopes east of the freeway for several miles, with one exception. Where our eruv line crossed Sepulveda Blvd and crossed over the freeway embankment slope to connect to the permanent walls, that one slope beneath our line was the only unburned slope for miles. The fire burned to within 2 feet of our eruv pole and stopped. Our Eruv passed through the firestorm untouched, and unscathed.
The fire had burned all of the hillsides and slopes east of the freeway for several miles, with one exception: