Skirball Fire Result of Illegal Cooking Fire

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The seven-day-old Skirball Fire was caused by ``an illegal cooking fire at an encampment in a brush area'' next to where Sepulveda Boulevard crosses under the San Diego (405) Freeway, authorities said today.

The fire, which was 85 percent contained as of this afternoon, scorched 422 acres since it broke out shortly before 5 a.m. on Dec. 6, the Los Angeles Fire Department reported. No one was at the scene of the fire's origin when firefighters arrived, and no one has been arrested.

The flames destroyed six homes and damaged 12 others, and at one time prompted the evacuation of about 700 homes and an apartment building in the Bel- Air area.

One firefighter suffered neck burns and was treated at a hospital. Two other firefighters suffered minor injuries. Nearly 70 firefighters were still working to douse hot spots.

The initial acreage was adjusted downward from 475 acres due to more accurate mapping, LAFD officials said. The fire was kept on the east side of the 405 Freeway.

Some evacuees were allowed to return home Friday, and all remaining evacuation orders were lifted Sunday. All road closures have been lifted, with no restrictions in place.

Evacuation orders covered a 3.2-square-mile area bounded by Mulholland Drive to the north, Sunset Boulevard to the south, the San Diego Freeway to the west and Roscomare Road on the east. The exception to the evacuation order was the Bel-Air Crest housing development, which was not threatened, according to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The Getty Center and the nearby Skirball Center, both on the west side of the freeway, closed in the immediate aftermath of the fire but re-opened Friday, when classes at UCLA, Cal State Northridge, Los Angeles Valley College and Santa Monica College also resumed.

All Los Angeles Unified School District schools in the San Fernando Valley and some on the west side of Los Angeles -- a total of 265 district schools and charter schools -- were closed Thursday and Friday. The schools re- opened Monday.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District closed all of its schools Wednesday and Thursday. Schools in Santa Monica reopened Friday, but Malibu schools remained closed until Monday.

The fire burned in the same general area as the devastating Bel-Air Fire of 1961. That blaze destroyed about 500 homes and led to various policy changes, including a prohibition on wood-shingle roofs and the strict requirement to clear brush around properties.

Photo: Getty Images

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