Arson arrest made in LA wildfire that forced evacuations

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LOS ANGELES (NewsNation Now) — An arson suspect was arrested in connection with a Los Angeles wildfire that forced evacuations in canyons where thick vegetation hasn’t burned in more than 60 years, authorities said Monday.

The man detained Sunday near the fire zone was being treated for smoke inhalation, said Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas. He did not identify the suspect or offer details about the investigation.

“We feel we have the right person,” Terrazas said at a news conference.

The wildfire near Topanga State Park is now at 25% containment, crews slowed its growth aided by cool, moist weather. By Monday, flames had charred just over 1,300 acres inside the state park.

No buildings were damaged and no injuries reported in the blaze that broke out late Friday in the Santa Monica Mountains. It grew rapidly Saturday — forcing about 1,000 Topanga Canyon area residents to flee their homes.

Firefighting aircraft made water and retardant drops as flames raced along ridges, sending up a huge plume of smoke and raining ash across surrounding neighborhoods. Due to the rough terrain of the area, most firefighting efforts have been navigated from the skies.

“This is very challenging terrain. As you’ve heard, it’s been about 75 years since we’ve had a fire there, some of the brush is 20 to 30 feet high,” said LA Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Evacuation orders have since been lifted for residents of the Topanga Canyon area which is located five miles north of Santa Monica.

An explosive wildfire so early in the year, especially in cool conditions with almost no wind, portends a difficult fire season ahead in a state that has seen very little rainfall, officials said.

“We really have to think about brush fires as a year-long challenge,” Terrazas said.

The cause of the fire in steep, inaccessible terrain had been deemed “suspicious” after officials noticed two ignition points about an hour apart, the Fire Department said. An LAPD chopper spotted multiple possible points of origin.

“It’s earlier than we normally do, but we normally don’t have this type of fire the size of Fire more May, I think we really have to think about brush fire as a year round challenge,” said Terrazas.

Arson investigators detained and released one person on Saturday and a second person was questioned and then arrested on Sunday, the department said.

Topanga Canyon is a remote, wooded community with some ranch homes bordering Malibu, about 20 miles west of downtown Los Angeles.

“There’s a lot of hiking and camping that goes on in those hills. And most people are very respectful of the terrain, To think that somebody would cause that kind of trouble for all of us,” said Pacific Palisades Resident Phyllis Spiva

This story is developing. Refresh for updates.

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