The Skirball Fire, which has been burning for a little more than a week in the Sepulveda Pass, was 90 percent contained Thursday.
The fire, which has scorched 422 acres since it broke out shortly before 5 a.m. on Dec. 6, was determined to have been caused by “an illegal cooking fire” at a homeless encampment in a brush area next to where Sepulveda Boulevard crosses under the San Diego (405) Freeway, authorities said.
No one was at the scene of the fire’s origin when firefighters arrived, and no one has been arrested, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. Authorities are still trying to find the homeless individuals who apparently started the blaze.
The flames destroyed six homes and damaged 12 others, and at one time prompted the evacuation of about 700 homes and an apartment building in the Bel- Air area.
Councilman Paul Koretz introduced an emergency motion Wednesday asking various city departments to report on the problem of hillside homeless encampments. The motion, which was approved on an 11-0 vote, calls for reports from the city’s fire and police departments, as well as the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and Caltrans.
“What we’ve been told most recently indicates that the (Skirball) fire was started at a homeless encampment hidden by ridges and foliage from view, and so it is believed that this property not only was not visible to anyone but also was not a property controlled by the city of Los Angeles,” Koretz said.
He said he wanted the departments to report on the specific encampment connected to the Skirball Fire to determine if homeless people were trespassing on land not open to the public when they set the illegal cooking fire.
The motion also asked that the reports identify homeless encampments in very high fire severity zones and what actions can be taken to prevent trespassing in those areas.
One firefighter suffered neck burns during the battle and was treated at a hospital. Two other firefighters suffered minor injuries. Firefighters were still working Wednesday to douse hot spots.
The initial acreage was adjusted downward from 475 acres due to more accurate mapping, LAFD officials said. The fire was kept on the east side of the 405 Freeway.
Some evacuees were allowed to return home Friday, and all remaining evacuation orders were lifted Sunday. All road closures have been lifted, with no restrictions in place.
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.
In its first week, the fire prompted the closures of the Getty Center and the nearby Skirball Center, both on the west side of the freeway, as well as 265 Los Angeles Unified School District schools. Additionally, classes were canceled at few nearby colleges.
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 a strict requirement to clear brush around properties.
—City News Service