LAFD: Skirball Fire caused by homeless camp fire

By Susan McFarland and Danielle Haynes  |  Updated Dec. 12, 2017 at 5:59 PM
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Dec. 12 (UPI) -- A cooking fire at a homeless encampment in Los Angeles sparked a wildfire that destroyed six homes in the upscale Bel-Air neighborhood, fire officials announced Tuesday.

The Los Angeles Fire Department said the illegal fire sparked brush near Sepulveda Boulevard where it passes under the 405 Freeway at about 5 a.m. Wednesday.

As of Monday evening, the Skirball Fire has burned 422 acres, injured three firefighters and damaged 12 structures. It was 85 percent contained.

LAFD said there have been no arrests in response to the blaze.

Six wildfires have destroyed thousands of acres across Southern California -- and the cost of fighting them is running into the tens of millions.

The largest, the Thomas Fire, burned 234,200 acres as of Tuesday afternoon, with 20 percent contained. It ranks as the fifth largest in California history. The blaze started in Ventura County a week ago and has burned its way to Santa Barbara County.

The Lilac Fire in San Diego County was 4,100 acres and 92 percent contained as of Tuesday morning. It started Thursday and destroyed 151 structures.

As of 6 a.m. Tuesday, the Creek Fire in Los Angeles County was 15,619 acres and 98 percent contained, destroyed 60 residences and 63 other structures, and injured three people.

The Rye Fire in Los Angeles County was 6,049 acres and 96 percent contained as of 8:55 a.m. Tuesday. It injured one firefighter, destroyed six structures and damaged three others.

The Liberty Fire in Riverside County was 100 percent contained at 300 acres as of Saturday.

Costs of fighting all six fires have risen to nearly $40 million, officials said. More than 9,500 firefighters from Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington state battled the flames, with 7,000 of those on the Thomas Fire alone.

In addition to the 1,000-plus structures destroyed, hundreds of homes have been torched, almost 100,000 people have been evacuated, 85,000 have been left without power and damages total about $10 billion.

Rich Macklin, Ventura County Fire Department spokesman, said the massive blaze is exhausting fire crews, with "hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of men and women with packs on their backs, squirting the hills, putting the wet stuff on the red stuff."

Rough terrain has also complicated matters, officials said, as it's made getting crews on the ground to attack the front lines of the fire difficult.

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