The “Skirball fire” which started last Wednesday and swept through Bel-Air, one of Los Angeles’ most affluent neighborhoods, was started by some of the city’s poorest residents, Los Angeles officials announced Tuesday.
Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Peter Sanders said the fire started in a homeless camp in a ravine along Sepulveda Boulevard where it passes under the 405 Freeway, where the people camping there had been cooking.
The camp was mostly destroyed in the fire, and officials said they have not found any of the people who lived there, but do not believe it was set intentionally. Homeless people had used the area for a camp for several years, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The news that a fire started by homeless people devastated one of the most exclusive areas of the city hit officials especially hard.
This “makes a tragic event even more tragic,” said Los Angeles Councilman Paul Koretz, whose district includes Bel-Air. “The saddest thing is that we have so many homeless people. And they are everywhere in the city. And that sometimes causes serious problems.”
Nickie Miner, vice president of the Bel Air-Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council, said they had been worried about a fire hazard from the homeless camps for a long time. “We knew it was only going to be a matter of time before something horrible happened,” she said.
The Skirball fire, which is now 85 percent contained, shut down traffic on the busy 405 freeway, destroyed six homes in the elite Bel-Air neighborhood, and damaged several others. Schools were forced to close, and the J. Paul Getty museum was also threatened by the fire.
Over 400 acres were burned, and 69 firefighters are still trying to contain the rest of the fire.
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