Officials: L.A. Fire Caused by Homeless People Cooking near 405 Freeway

Los Angeles fire (Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty)
Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty

Officials said Tuesday afternoon that the Skirball fire was likely caused by homeless people cooking in an encampment near the 405 Freeway, which was shut down by the blaze last Wednesday.

The Los Angeles Times, quoting Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Peter Sanders, said that the fire originated in “a camp along Sepulveda Boulevard where it passes under the 405 Freeway.”

The Times added:

Investigators who inspected the encampment found evidence that people had been cooking and sleeping in the area but did not find anyone there, Sanders said. The department has no suspects, he said.

Officials said the size of the encampment where the blaze started was hard to determine because the area was burned.

“By the time investigators got there everyone was gone,” Peter Sanders, the Los Angeles Fire Department communications director, said.

Almost all the physical evidence at the scene was consumed by the blaze, he added. Investigators were able to eliminate arson as a cause based on was left of the encampment and place of origin of the flames, he added.

The causes of the other fires in Southern California have not yet been determined. Most have been largely or totally contained, except the Thomas fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, which has burned in excess of 230,000 acres and is only partially contained.

Los Angeles, like other cities in California, faces the challenge of a growing homeless population. The increase in recent years has partly been driven by the rising cost of housing, but also by the opioid crisis, illegal immigration, and prison reforms that have released more criminals onto the streets, among other factors.

The Skirball fire, which is 85% contained nearly a week after it started, destroyed six homes in the wealthy neighborhood of Bel-Air, and damaged several others. It also threatened the J. Paul Getty museum, forced schools to close, and shut down traffic on the 405, the nation’s busiest highway.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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