Power lines strung alongside Sepulveda Boulevard near the Getty Center sparked the Getty Fire that's burned through 656 acres in the Santa Monica Mountains west of the 405 freeway and has destroyed a dozen homes, city officials confirmed Tuesday.
Arson investigators from the Los Angeles Fire Department said it appeared a tree branch snapped-off by intense winds early Monday morning struck the lines, caught fire, then dropped on to a brush-covered hillside below.
The power lines were the focus of the fire investigation almost immediately, city officials confirmed to NBC4's I-Team. Members of the LAFD arson unit could be seen examining a power pole and searching the hillside around the pole and along Promontory Road just above the lines.
U.S. & World
News from around the country and around the globe
It's not clear what was found there, though the officials confirmed the area was the 'point of origin,' or the exact spot the fire started.
"We do know...there was no homeless encampment, so that has been ruled out," LA Mayor Eric Garcetti told reporters Monday.
Residents who live along the Sepulveda Pass have expressed concern for months that people living tent encampments, visible in brush areas along the pass, might accidentally ignite a devastating wildfire by cooking, heating, or smoking.
The Skirball Fire in December 2017, just across the lanes of the 405 from the start of the Getty Fire, was caused by a cooking fire in a homeless camp, city officials said. Several homes were destroyed.
Concerns about the potential foruninsulated electrical lines causing wild land fires have prompted California's two largest private utilities, Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison, to preemptively deenergize aerial lines in high fire danger areas.
As of early this week the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, that owns the pole closest to the start of the Getty Fire, had not made plans to switch-off electricity as a precaution, the city officials told NBC4.