A bushfire in an exclusive community in Southern California escalated on Sunday as 1,000 residents remained under mandatory evacuation orders, authorities said.
Los Angeles County officials searched on Sunday for a potential arsonist who could have started a bushfire that forced the mandatory evacuation of around 1,000 people in the exclusive Pacific Palisades area near Topanga Canyon.
Afternoon winds and warm weather allowed the Palisades blaze to nearly double to 1325 unconfined acres on Sunday at 1 p.m. PT after cool, humid conditions kept it at around 750 acres. overnight. A Sunday morning update from the Los Angeles Fire Department said winds could push the blaze northwest – threatening homes – as it tears through dense mountain vegetation that “is very dry and doesn’t has not burned for over 50 years “.
Topanga Canyon, a secluded, wooded community with a few ranch homes, is about 20 miles west of downtown Los Angeles on the border with Malibu.
At least one helicopter dropping water from Ventura County was involved in the shooting. A Ventura County fire crew was dispatched Sunday afternoon.
The cause of the fire was deemed “suspicious” and is under investigation, firefighters said.
There were reports that an arson suspect was spotted in the area on Saturday, but a search by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department found no one, the LAFD spokeswoman said, Margaret Stewart.
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As huge plumes of smoke rose above the mountains, firefighters mainly relied on air drops to fight the blaze – which started late Friday night – due to the difficulty in reaching the steep terrain and rugged.
“Bulldozers are working to improve access for firefighters on the ground, but much of the area remains inaccessible,” said Stewart. “This is primarily an air operation with fixed and rotary wing helicopters working together.”
“The weather remained cool and humid overnight, which led to calmer fire activity,” the Los Angeles Fire Department said in a statement Sunday morning. “However, as it warms up today, conditions are expected to change as the vegetation in this area is very dry and has not burned for over 50 years.”
Air quality officials issued a smoke advisory at least Sunday afternoon due to smoke billowing near homes in the area and advised those at risk to stay indoors.
By noon Sunday, the fire had charred about 5.1 square kilometers of brush and trees. Later that day, authorities warned a few dozen residents of a hilly neighborhood that they should prepare to evacuate if the fire continues to grow. There was no containment.
Regardless of the cause of the Palisades fire, officials and residents of California are bracing for a tough fire season in 2021 after a second consecutive winter of below-average precipitation that left most of the state in drought conditions and millions of acres of land ready to burn.
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“The fire season in California and across the West begins earlier and ends later each year,” Cal Fire, the state’s wildland fire prevention and control agency, says on its website. Web, highlighting climate change as a major reason. “The length of the fire season is estimated to have increased by 75 days in the Sierra and appears to correspond to an increase in the extent of wildfires statewide.”
The 2020 fire season set records with nearly 10,000 fires and 4.25 million acres burned – over 4% of the state’s territory – damaging or destroying nearly 10,500 structures.
Contributing: Gretchen Wenner, Ventura County Star; Palm Springs Desert Sun