{mosimage}Lucas Elliott had a late night last night; it was his 21st birthday and he and his friends had a party at La Poubelle, the French restaurant on Franklin across from the Scientology Celebrity Centre.

He stayed at a friend�s place in the neighborhood and woke up around 11 and started making his morning calls and checking e-mails. He went to the 101 Coffee Shop for breakfast, and that was when he got a text from a friend. Is Oakwood on fire? He wrote back, I�m not there. I don�t know, and went out on the street to see.

He jumped in his Subaru Outback and drove up to Barham Boulevard along the 101 Freeway, making his way to the Toluca Hills branch of the Oakwood Apartments, where he has lived in a one-bedroom for the past eight years.

�I was driving over the hill and there was just, just huge fumes of smoke, amazing, gigantean, nebula or something,� the actor/filmmaker tells me from his cell phone while he watches the smoke and commotion outside his building.

Firemen blocked off the street and weren�t allowing anyone into the buildings, but Elliott waited until no one was looking and ran into his apartment.

�The fire was very close. It was within 500 yards or maybe less,� he says.

�You know what is really interesting?� asks Elliott, still slightly panting from the experience. �When you think your home is going to burn, it�s [about] �what are you gonna grab?�

Elliott, who just completed his first feature film, an independent political drama that he wrote, directed and produced, first grabbed the hard drive from his computer, which contained an edit of the film. He also grabbed old notebooks, photographs and sentimental memorabilia.

His friend and producing partner, Aaron Himelstein, who appeared as young Austin in Austin Powers in Goldmember, drove over. Because the police made him park his car on Barham, he waited and then, like Elliott, snuck in to the complex to help his friend.

While Elliott was dragging his belongings up a hill to his car, he says that a Channel 4 News reporter tried to interview him.

�I was like, �Dude, I do not have time,� he recalls with a slight laugh, now free from any danger.

Since rescuing the film, he has been just hanging at his apartment, reluctant to leave in case the authorities don�t let him back in. He asked the firemen if there was anything they needed, and they said they had run out of drinking water. Elliott brought a case down for them.

He�s spent the past few hours filming the scene.

�I�ve never seen anything like this before up close,� he says in awe. �The ground is all black and gray. Antonio Villaraigosa is here. Down by the P and Q building [the buildings there each have letters assigned to them] the fire came right up to the road. It looks like the surface of the moon. Like driving though Yellowstone Park. I remember doing that after the fire they had. Fire crews are spraying things down, all the trees are gone; it�s all rock. The air smells like smoke; there are helicopters everywhere.�

A helicopter at work near Oakwood Apartments
(Photo by Rena Kosnett)

LA Weekly