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Hundreds Under Evacuation, 1 Detained For Questioning In Arson Investigation – CBS Los Angeles

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Firefighters Monday morning continued to battle a massive wildfire which is threatening homes in the upscale Topanga and Pacific Palisades communities of Los Angeles.

Flames shoot up from the Palisades Fire in rugged terrain near homes above Topanga Canyon Boulevard on May 15, 2021, in Los Angeles, Calif. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)

The Palisades Fire, which has burned 1,325 acres and had zero containment as of late Sunday night, has forced about 1,000 people in the Topanga area to flee their homes.

As of early Monday, no structures were damaged, and no injuries had been reported. About 500 homes in Topanga are under mandatory evacuations, while another 100 in Pacific Palisades are under evacuation warnings. A news conference was scheduled for 10 a.m.

An Los Angeles police sergeant told CBSLA Saturday that the fire may have been arson. Police helicopters caught sight of a person setting fires Friday night.

Investigators with the L.A. Fire Department and LAPD detained two people in connection with the fire. One was questioned and released Saturday night, and authorities were interviewing a second person on Sunday, according to an LAFD fire captain.

The fire was first reported at 10 p.m. Friday in the 1800 block of North Michael Lane, in a canyon with steep and difficult-to-reach terrain. It quickly exploded Saturday, spreading northeast.

“It went from 100 acres to 750 acres or so in about an hour,” LAFD Battalion Chief Al Ward explained Sunday.

The wildfire is burning in an area that is very dry and has not burned in more than 50 years, LAFD officials said.

“What we’re dealing with is this; We have essentially on-shore flow pushing that wind up into this canyon, and that canyon consists of old, heavy growth that hasn’t had fire activity in 50-plus years,” LACFD spokesperson Sean Ferguson told CBSLA Sunday.

Firefighters Sunday were able to hold the western edge of the blaze and keep the flames from crossing Topanga Canyon Boulevard.

Evacuations were ordered Saturday two areas in L.A. County, but not within L.A. City. Those evacuation orders remained in place Monday morning.

The latest evacuation map for the Palisades Fire burning in Topanga, Calif., on May 17, 2021. (Los Angeles County/ESRI)

The mandatory evacuations were issued for Zone 4: all residents east of Topanga Canyon Boulevard between the Community House and View Ridge Road. Along with Zone 6: Everyone north of Entrada, south of Oakwood Drive and east of the Henry Ridge Motorway.

Meanwhile, LAFD issued an evacuation warning Sunday afternoon in Pacific Palisades for all homes north of Chastain Parkway in the 1500 block to Calle Del Cielo. The warning area includes Calle De Sarah, Calle Bellevista and all homes west of Calle Del Cielo and Ave Ashley up to the hills.

Topanga Canyon Boulevard between the Pacific Coast Highway and Mulholland Drive remains closed.

Topanga Elementary Charter School, at 22075 Topanga School Road, will be temporarily closed beginning Monday due to air quality and safety concerns caused by the Palisades fire, the Los Angeles Unified School District reported.

Large animals can be taken to Pierce College Equestrian Center, at 6201 Winnetka Ave. in Woodland Hills. Small animals can be taken to the Agoura Animal Care Center, 29525 Agoura Hills Road in Agoura.

LAFD and LACFD crews are battling the blaze with air and ground crews.

LACFD sent strike teams and camp crews to the fight and its helicopters made water drops until they were “timed out” Sunday night, according to Dispatch Supervisor Michael Pittman.

“Dozers are working to improve access for firefighters on the ground but much of the area remains inaccessible,” Pittman said. “This is primarily an air-based operation.”

Los Angeles County fire officials reported that after a marine layer blew in Sunday, the visibility became too poor for fixed-wing aircraft, which had been productive. Helicopters continued to make water drops.

LACFD is involved in a unified command with LAFD and Cal Fire.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)