SANTA MONICA (KTLA) — Firefighters on Tuesday made significant progress against a brush fire burning in the Santa Monica Mountains that forced hundreds of residents to flee their homes over the weekend as police released the name of the man suspected of setting the blaze.
Containment of the Palisades Fire grew overnight from 23 to 32%, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. At the same time, acreage was revised downward, from 1,325 to 1,158.
Investigators determined the cause of the fire to be arson after spending hours analyzing burn patterns, documenting the burn area and conducting interviews with witnesses, firefighters and police officers.
The suspect has been identified as Ramon Santos Rodriguez, a transient. The 48-year-old, who was arrested Monday afternoon, is being held on $75,000 bail, booking records show.
Arson investigators were initially called out to look into the blaze just after midnight Saturday, about two hours after crews encountered multiple, slow-moving fires in remote and steep terrain in Pacific Palisades, according to a Fire Department news release. The first flames ignited off Michael Lane and Palisades Court.
The following morning, a man was seen by LAFD helicopter pilots moving around in brush along a hillside near the burn area. An air patrol was dispatched to monitor him from the air, while crews were deployed on the ground.
“During an aerial observation, the Tactical Flight Officer witnessed the individual ignite multiple additional fires,” the release stated.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was called in to assist LAFD arson investigators, and deputies were lowered into the brush to search for the man, but the effort was halted as the blaze spread rapidly.
Then, just after 11 a.m. Sunday, a private security guard observed the individual emerging from the brush in the 1200 block of Palisades Drive and called the Los Angeles fire and police departments.
LAPD officers arrived at the scene and detained the man, who was then taken to a local hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation before being arrested.
“We do feel we have the right person,” LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas said Monday.
The L.A. County District Attorney’s Office confirmed charges have been filed in the case, but did not elaborate on the count or counts against the suspect. An arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, a spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, more than 500 firefighting personnel are still battling the flames and working to increase containment Tuesday morning. Resources include 50 engines, eight helicopters, four dozers and three water tenders.
It’s unclear when the fire will be fully contained.
All evacuation orders in the Topanga Canyon area were lifted Monday night, allowing those displaced to return home. Evacuation warnings remain in effect for Trailer and Quarry canyons, as well as Enclave Housing communities.
Additionally, the stretch of Topanga Canyon Boulevard from the Pacific Coast Highway to Mulholland Drive is open only to residents until 1 p.m. Tuesday.