Pacific Palisades Brush Fire Burns 40 Acres; Evacuation Orders Lifted

A firefighter looks out over the flames of the Palisades Fire minutes, after it ignites on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019 in the Pacific Palisades. (Christian Monterrosa/AP)

A brush fire in Pacific Palisades on Monday prompted mandatory evacuation orders for about 200 homes, but residents received the all-clear to return home that night.

The blaze has burned about 40 acres and was 10% contained as of Monday night, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

"Firefighters will work through the night in very steep, cliff-like terrain to ensure flames do not move past control lines," LAFD officials said in their latest incident update.

At a 3:30 p.m. press conference Monday, officials said police would begin helping residents into and out of the area within the next hour and a half. About 50 officers were already in the area helping those who had sheltered in place. A small contingent would remain overnight, said LAPD Commander Cory Palka.

"I don't like to keep folks out of the home longer than they have to," said incident commander Patrick Butler. "They have medication and pets. And my job is get folks back there when it's back safe and normal."

By 5:30 p.m., residents with identification who live off Palisades Drive in Palisades Highlands were being escorted by police back into their homes, according to the fire department.

By 8 p.m., all evacuation orders had been lifted. The evacuation center set up at Palisades Recreation Center was closed.

The evacuation was issued in part because of the fire and smoke, but also to make way for the use of a fixed wing aircraft, which officials said dropped retardant over the area. More than 300 firefighters from both the city and county worked to put out the flames.

The fire, which was reported shortly before 11 a.m., was driven primarily by the terrain, not by wind, according to the fire officials. That rugged terrain proved challenging for ground crews.

Firefighters work during the Palisades Fire, in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood, on Oct. 21, 2019. The fire scorched at least 40 acres and threatened hillside homes. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Earlier in the day, TV aerial footage showed a deck that appeared to be melting and a nearby construction crew holding hoses, but officials said that no structures have been damaged, and no significant injuries have been reported.

One firefighter suffered from exertion, LAFD's Humphrey said. One civilian suffered moderate respiratory distress.

By Thursday, increased winds are forecast, along with a hot, dry pattern. Officials speaking at an early afternoon press conference said they are putting a lot of resources on the fire to ensure that the area is ready for the potential increase.

"Any winds of course with the embers and a wildfire is a concern," Humphrey said.

Butler, the incident commander, said he expected crews to be on scene for at least 48 hours working to ensure the fire remained contained.

(Reed Saxon/AP)

BRUSH CLEARANCE AND PREVENTION

Authorities attributed their success in avoiding damages so far to a lack of wind and to homeowners' adherence to brush clearance regulations.

From the perspective of TV helicopters tracking the fire, Kresimir Kadrnka's house on Vista Grande Drive appeared to have excellent brush clearance, not just on his property, but the downslope below that could feed fire up to his home.

"It's good, but it could always be better," Kadrnka said in a phone interview as he watched the fire develop.

He said he bought his house in the 1960s and was one of the first to live on that street.

From the air, his direct neighbor's house to the north appeared to be surrounded by trees. Kadrnka said he considered his neighbor to have done a good job of brush clearance, "except for the trees."

HOW IT STARTED

The fire started at the base of Palisades Drive late Monday morning and quickly ran up the hill, spreading to 18 acres in 15 minutes. So far no cause has been identified, but arson investigators are on scene.

SCENES ON THE GROUND

Images and videos posted to social media showed thick plumes of smoke rising above the coastal hillsides.

Firefighters begin hosing down the flames of a wildfire called the Palisades Fire minutes after it ignites on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019 in Pacific Palisades. (Christian Monterrosa/AP)

HOW WE'RE COVERING THIS

Reporter Sharon McNary and news producer Emily Henderson made calls from the studio. Digital producer Brian Frank has been keeping the story updated.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

For the latest information straight from local emergency officials, check the following:

FIRE RESOURCES


UPDATES: This article will be updated frequently throughout the day. Check back for the latest.

This story was originally published at 12:05 p.m.