A Tragedy Trimmed in Mink

As we watch the fires in California it’s easy to forget that this is not the first time.

Among the most notorious California wildfires, the Bel-Air/Brentwood fire began in a trash heap…..a blaze that left hundreds of the rich and famous homeless in what LIFE magazine called ‘A Tragedy Trimmed in Mink’ and prompted brush clearance laws and an eventual city ban on wood shingle roofs.

On a warm November morning in 1961, a Sherman Oaks construction crew, working just north of Bel-Air, noticed smoke and flames coming from a nearby pile of rubbish.

Within minutes, Santa Ana winds swept burning embers from roof to roof, spreading fire across the affluent enclaves of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Actor Burt Lancaster, comedian Joe E. Brown, composer Lukas Foss, Nobel laureate chemist Willard Libby and Zsa Zsa Gabor lost homes.