Arson suspected in rapidly spreading Pacific Palisades brush fire; evacuations ordered

LOS ANGELES — Mandatory evacuation orders remain in effect Sunday for residents in the Topanga area of Los Angeles as firefighters battle a brush fire that has scorched 1,325 acres near Pacific Palisades since about 10 p.m. Friday.

Officials with the Los Angeles Police Department now suspect arson as the cause of the ongoing blaze because personnel aboard police helicopters caught sight of a man they believe might still be in the area setting the initial fires, KCAL reported.

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“I heard there’s caves in there. There’s multiple caves per the park rangers. So, he might be in a cave because there was a lot of smoke, and for him to survive that, he has to go somewhere indoors. So, I’m thinking he went to a cave,” Sgt. Jay Balgemino told the TV station.

According to the Los Angeles Fire Department, the Palisades Fire remained 0% contained Sunday afternoon, by which point the blaze had nearly doubled in size from 750 acres on Saturday, KABC reported.

The steep terrain in the area has hindered fire crews’ ability to navigate, and poor visibility forced the suspension of the use of air-tankers to fight the fire, KCAL reported.

LAFD spokesperson David Ortiz told KABC that the vegetation in the area is very dry and has not burned in more than 50 years.

“We’re trying to keep it up out of the old growth, which is 50-60 years that hasn’t burned, so there’s a lot of dense, thick material there: oily plants that have died out because of the drought,” Ortiz said. “So that’s our objective today is to try to keep it out of that and protect the communities and neighborhoods to the west of this fire because that’s what’s closest to it.”

According to the LAFD, mandatory evacuation orders were issued at 7 p.m. Saturday for roughly 1,000 Topanga area residents, including those east of Topanga Canyon between the Community and View Ridge, and everyone north of Entrada, south of Oakwood and east of Henry Ridge. A second evacuation warning was issued at 2 p.m. Sunday for all homes north of Chastain Parkway in the 1500 block to Calle Del Cielo, including Calle De Sarah, Calle Bellevista and all homes west of Calle Del Cielo and Ave Ashley up to the hills, KABC reported.