Firefighters from multiple agencies are battling a brush fire that had spread to
1,158 acres with a containment of 32% as of 8 a.m. Tuesday in the Pacific Palisades area, dousing the blaze mostly from the air because of steep terrain within a remote canyon.
The acreage was downgraded from an earlier estimate of 1,325 acres as more accurate GPS measurements became available.
One firefighter suffered a minor injury, but no structure loss has been reported so far in the brush fire, suspected to have been set by an arsonist. Evacuation orders for residents in the Topanga and Entrada areas were set on Saturday, but on Monday evening officials lifted the orders. Topanga Canyon Boulevard was scheduled to reopen to the public at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
“The battle is primarily an air operation, with the ground being accessible to vehicles," L.A. Fire Department spokeswoman Margret Stewart said. "We have dozers trying to create better access ... firefighters are having to hike into very steep terrain.”
Late Sunday morning, crews were battling flare-ups on the edge of the fire. Helicopters were dropping water on the flames and firefighters were deployed on the ground.
Officials said that they've had a difficult time deploying air resources because of the persistent marine layer coming in from the pacific.
Pierce College has been set up to take large animals that need to be evacuated, and the L.A. County Animal Shelter in Agoura Hills is taking small animals.
For the latest information straight from local emergency officials, check the following websites and social media accounts:
- Los Angeles County Fire Department via Twitter
- CHP West Valley via Twitter
- L.A. County Sheriff — West Hills via Twitter
- CalFire via Twitter
- LAFD via Twitter
- Acreage: 1,158 acres
- Containment: 32%
- Structures destroyed: n/a
- Structures threatened: n/a
- Resources deployed: 540 personnel
660 Gal. of water on the #PalisadesFire from VC Cpt. 2. Each drop requires coordination between the @VENTURASHERIFF Pilot, @VCFD Fire Manager identifying targets, and the crew chief communicating and managing the bucket behavior. pic.twitter.com/pctEmPhe08— VenturaCoAirUnit (@VCAirUnit) May 17, 2021
Mandatory evacuation orders were lifted on Monday at 6 p.m.
On Sunday afternoon, an evacuation warning was issued for the 1500 block of Chastain Parkway W, including all homes north of Chastain Parkway to the eastern boundary at Calle Del Cielo, as well as Calle De Sarah, Calle Bellevista and all homes West of Calle Del Cielo and Avenue Ashley up to the hills.
On Saturday, Zone 4 — east of Topanga Canyon between the Community House and View Ridge — and Zone 6, the area north of Entrada, south of Oakwood and east of Henry Ridge, were placed under mandatory evacuations, according to the L.A. County Fire Department. Evacuations affected an estimated 1,000 people.
*MANDATORY EVACUATIONS ORDERED* See attached images. If you live in Zone 4 or Zone 6 in Topanga (boxes outlined in blue) please evacuate. Also hard closure at Topanga/Mulholland and Topanga/PCH #PalisadesFire— L.A. County Fire Department (@LACoFDPIO) May 16, 2021
#@LAFD @CAL_FIRE pic.twitter.com/pXLaa66Y0h
Evacuation shelters for animals:
- Pierce College, 6201 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills, CA 91367 (large animals)
- L.A. County Animal Shelter, 29525 Agoura Rd., Agoura Hills, CA 91301
As of Monday morning, weather conditions were favorable for battling the blaze, with cool temperatures and moist air. The marine layer burned off by mid morning. Temperatures will continue to warm throughout the day, but will stay on the cool side. Winds could pick up and push the fire in the Northwest direction.
According to the National Weather Service, the Palisades fire was initially being driven by gusty S-SW winds, 10-20 mph. Humidities 80% or higher, but fuels are very dry.
Late Saturday, NWS officials in L.A. tweeted:
Sunset over the #PalisadesFire from SCE alert wildfire camera. Topanga Canyon Blvd (27) remains closed due to the fire. Satellite derived fire temp/fire power are showing that crews are getting the fire under control. #firewx #socal #cawx— NWS Los Angeles (@NWSLosAngeles) May 16, 2021
On Friday, an LAPD helicopter pilot identified the initial fire, which remained at 15 acres through Saturday morning. A second fire then began at a nearby location. The blaze seemed suspicious, given that there weren't strong winds pushing embers far and wide, LAFD Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said.
"Anytime you have multiple points of origin, your first thought is, 'This is not natural'" he said.
Law enforcement officials said a 48-year-old suspect was arrested Sunday on suspicion of arson and was being held on $101,000 bail. His name was initially reported as Ramon Santos Rodriguez, though Erik Scott, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Fire Department, said via Twitter that the suspect is listed in law enforcement databases under varying names, including Ramon Rodriguez Flores.
Firefighting aircraft were preparing to be deployed on Sunday morning:
#PalisadesFire (LA Co.)— SoCal Air Operations (@SocalAirOps) May 16, 2021
Good Morning, last night weather remained cool and moist which led to calmer fire activity. Today, these conditions are expected to change as vegetation is dry in the area. Firefighting aircraft will be available at approximately 10:00 a.m this morning. pic.twitter.com/luXWrQnqrQ
Scenes On The Ground
In just a matter of a few hours, the #PalisadesFire has blown up, despite relatively mild fire weather conditions. Fuels are more than ready to burn across much of California, even in the absence of elevated/critical fire weather conditions. #CAwx #CAfire pic.twitter.com/zps7brVBam— US StormWatch (@US_Stormwatch) May 16, 2021
Fires are a critical part of the landscape in the Western U.S., but according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment, “the area burned by wildfire from 1984 to 2015 was twice what would have burned had climate change not occurred.” Put simply, hotter, drier conditions present throughout more of the year have made fuels more susceptible to burning across the state.
How We're Reporting On This
This is a developing story. We fact check everything and rely only on information from credible sources (think fire, police, government officials and reporters on the ground). Sometimes, however, we make mistakes and/or initial reports turn out to be wrong. In all cases, we strive to bring you the most accurate information in real time and will update this story as new information becomes available.
Josie Huang is making calls on the fire and freelance photographer Brian Feinzimer was on scene Saturday. Jessica Ogilvie is updating the post. Oscar Garza and Megan Garvey are editing.
UPDATES: This story was originally published May 15 at 8 p.m. and has been updated as new information became available.