405 Freeway

Firefighters Determine Cause of Skirball Fire

What to Know

  • The fire scorched 422 acres.
  • Containment lines improved to 98 percent on Saturday,
  • All evacuation orders and road closures have been lifted

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The Los Angeles Fire Department has determined the cause of the Skirball Fire, which burned hundreds of acres in the Sepulveda Pass.

Los Angeles Fire Department investigators determined that the blaze was caused by an illegal cooking fire at an encampment in a brush area next to where Sepulveda Boulevard crosses under the 405 Freeway, the department announced Tuesday.

There have been no arrests, officials said.

The fire had reached 85 percent containment by Tuesday, but the damage had already been done, the blaze scorching 422 acres, destroying six structures and damaging another 12 since it first erupted around 4:50 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6.

One firefighter suffered neck burns and was treated at a hospital, authorities said. Two other firefighters suffered minor injuries.

The initial acreage was adjusted downward 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 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, said Margaret Stewart of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

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, when classes at UCLA, Cal State Northridge, Los Angeles Valley College and Santa Monica College resumed.

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. The schools reopened 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 until Monday.

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.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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