Weed Wacker Likely Sparked Fire That Prompted Evacuations in Beverly Crest: LAFD

A weed wacker likely caused a fire that prompted the temporary evacuation of dozens of homes in Beverly Crest on Tuesday, according to authorities.

The Portola Fire, reported shortly before 2 p.m., burned about 35 to 40 acres and was 40 percent contained as of 10 p.m., the Los Angeles Fire Department said.

A weed wacker used by a contractor at the backyard of a residence on the 9800 block of Portola Drive likely sparked the flames, LAFD spokesman Erik Scott said.

"Make sure you have contracted, licensed workers that will have proper fire safety precautions," Scott said.

He encouraged homeowners to clear brush early in the morning, when fuels are not as susceptible to sparks.

Mandatory evacuation orders that affected some 86 homes were lifted at 8 p.m., according to the Fire Department. The areas that had been evacuated — San Ysidro Drive between Millboro Place and Beeson Drive  and on the northern boundary of Highridge Drive down Summitridge Drive — would however only be open to residents.

Firefighters were able to contain the incident to those areas thanks to light winds, Scott said, adding that no homes were damaged or destroyed in the fire.

Mulholland Drive, which shut down on Tuesday afternoon, reopened for residents at 8 p.m.

Homes on both flanks of the blaze, south of Yoakum Drive and north of Portola Drive, faced "immediate threat," the LAFD announced Tuesday afternoon. The flames moved toward Benedict Canyon Drive, the agency said.

In addition to the mandatory evacuations, officials issued an evacuation warning for residents along the northern boundary of San Circle down San Ysidro Drive to the southern boundary of Peavine Drive.

Earlier, authorities said the fire could potentially spread to 60 acres.

“The fire has burned down and then could be making the run up that hill, up that hillside, which is why that community is under evacuation,” agency spokeswoman Margaret Stewart explained.

Resident Deborah Klar said she "could smell the fire and I could feel all this soot coming down from the air” the moment she left her home.

LAFD asked motorists to stay away from the area, including Mulholland Drive and the neighboring canyons.

Benedict Canyon was shut down for northbound traffic at Tower Road, according to the Beverly Hills Police Department. San Ysidro Drive was also closed at Pickfair Way. There was no threat to properties within the Beverly Hills city limits, the Police Department noted.

Officials set up an evacuation center at Westwood Recreation Center on 1350 Sepulveda Boulevard. Earlier, authorities sent evacuees to UCLA's Wooden Center.

More than 250 firefighters responded to the incident. LAFD said county fire officials also sent air and ground resources.

Other than a fireman who had a non-trauma medical complaint, no injuries were reported, according to the agency.

Crews worked to keep the blaze north of Portola, west of San Ysidro, south of Yoakum and east of Benedict Canyon, Scott said on Tuesday afternoon.

Firefighters faced warm, dry conditions in the hills, according to the National Weather Service.

The forecast called for highs of 84 to 87 degrees, with humidity of about 35 percent. Light winds of 7 mph were blowing in a southerly direction, with gusts of up to 14 mph expected.

Plumes of thick, light-colored smoke towered above the hills and were visible for miles around Los Angeles and beyond.

KTLA's Tracy Bloom, Matt Phillips and Nidia Becerra contributed to this story.