Press conference at Skirball fire
Mayor Eric Garcetti during a press conference with smoke from the Skirball fire in the background. Courtesy mayor’s office

It’s almost over.

But firefighters still had a lot of work to do as they stamped out the five-day-old Skirball Fire Sunday in the Sepulveda Pass and Bel-Air, authorities said.

Containment lines improved to 75 percent on Saturday, according to Margaret Stewart, spokesperson for the Los Angeles Fire Department.

While firefighters still have to finish the job, authorities were trying to figure out what started the scary, massive blaze that burned homes, shut the entire San Diego (405) Freeway during rush hour and forced thousands to flee from their homes.

There was no word yet of a possible cause as officials launched an investigation to find out if the blaze was started by natural causes, arson or something accidental.

The fire that started at 4:50 a.m. Wednesday on the east side of the San Diego (405) Freeway near Mulholland Drive has scorched 421 acres, destroyed six homes and damaged 12 others while prompting the evacuation of about 700 homes and an apartment building. One firefighter suffered neck burns and was treated at a hospital, authorities said. Another firefighter suffered minor injuries.

The amount of acreage was adjusted downward Sunday from 475 acres due to more accurate mapping, the Los Angeles Fire Department said. The fire has been kept on the east side of the freeway.

Some evacuees were allowed to return home Friday. Mandatory evacuation orders remain in place for residents north of the 1000 block of Linda Flora Drive, and residents south of 1894 Linda Flora Drive.

A stretch of Moraga Drive north of the security gate entrance is only open to residents. Stretches of Bellagio and Casino roads from Moraga Drive were also opened Friday.

Evacuation orders covered a 3.2-square-mile area bounded by Mulholland Drive to the north, Sunset Boulevard to the south, the San Diego Freeway to the west and Roscomare Road on the east.

The exception to the evacuation order was the Bel-Air Crest housing development, which was not threatened, according to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The Getty Center and the nearby Skirball Center, both on the west side of the freeway, reopened Friday.

Classes at UCLA, Cal State Northridge, Los Angeles Valley College and Santa Monica College resumed Friday after being canceled Thursday.

All Los Angeles Unified School District schools in the San Fernando Valley and some on the west side of Los Angeles — a total of 265 district schools and charter schools — were closed Thursday and Friday. They are expected to be open Monday.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District closed all of its schools Wednesday and Thursday. Schools in Santa Monica reopened Friday, but Malibu schools remained closed.

What sparked the Skirball Fire has not been determined.

The fire burned in the same general area as the devastating Bel-Air Fire of 1961. That blaze destroyed about 500 homes and led to various policy changes, including a prohibition on wood-shingle roofs and the strict requirement to clear brush around properties.

–City News Service

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