All evacuation orders were lifted in Pacific Palisades after hundreds had to leave their homes Monday afternoon as firefighters worked to extinguish a fast-moving brush fire that scorched at least 40 acres and threatened multimillion-dollar homes.
The flames erupted around 10:30 a.m. in the 500 block of North Palisades Drive, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.
An hour into the firefight, the Palisades Fire had grown to at least 30 acres and was threatening hillside homes along Vista Grande Drive and Charmel Lane, fire officials said.
Estimates around 3 p.m. placed the fire at 40 acres, and the blaze remained that size into Monday night, LAFD said. As of 9 p.m., it was 10% contained.
About 6:15 p.m., residents with identification who live off Palisades Drive in Palisades Highlands were allowed back into their homes with a police escort.
All evacuation orders were lifted by 8:20 p.m. Earlier, residents in the area bounded by Bienveneda Avenue, Charmel Lane, Merivale Lane and Lachman Lane were told to evacuate immediately.
Only one lane of Palisades Drive was reopened for the access, LAFD said.
About 200 homes were impacted by the evacuation order, according to a fire official. An evacuation shelter has been set up at Palisades Recreation Center, located at 851 Alma Real Drive.
Fire officials had warned of the possibility of changing weather conditions, and fire and smoke behavior.
“The area around here is ripe for wildfires. So, when we initiate an evacuation in area, it’s not so much … for what you see in front of you, but what they can anticipate,” Assistant Chief Patrick Butler said at an early afternoon news conference.
Earlier, residents could be seen fleeing as the fire moved perilously close to home in the upscale community. At one point, some people stood near the edge of the hillside, attempting to spray the flames with water from garden hoses, video from Sky5 showed.
More than 300 personnel from LAFD and the L.A. County Fire Department were dispatched to battle the fire by air and ground.
By 11:50 a.m., they were able to beat back the terrain-fueled flames, which at one point ignited trees and other brush in backyards. The fire appeared to be under control less than 30 minutes later, but tall columns of smoke above homes were still visible from miles away.
Although LAFD said no structures were damaged, one resident said that his roof caught fire.
But firefighters were able to extinguish the flames with minimal damage, George Wakalopulos told KTLA.
“They saved the house,” the grateful resident said.
One firefighter and one civilian sustained injuries related to the blaze, according to Butler. He described the firefighter’s injury as minor and said the civilian was transported after suffering from some type of respiratory distress.
By early afternoon, the blaze was burning in a northeast direction. A Santa Ana wind event was forecast in the region through Wednesday, but wind was not a factor in the fire’s spread.
“Fortunately there was minimal to no wind,” Scott said. “When that wind comes in, it moves that fire like a freight train through these areas.”
In addition to lack of winds, firefighters were also aided by residents being compliant with brush clearance regulations, said Brian Humphrey, another spokesman for LAFD.
“This neighborhood … embraces our brush clearance policy,” he told KTLA. “Back in May we inspected this neighborhood and found excellent compliance.”
In Pacific Palisades, the requirement calls for at least 200 feet of brush clearance from the property, according to Humphrey. He described it as the strictest requirement in the state.
Still, even with strong compliance, the area faces problems and challenges.
“The property you see here, even the green brush, is highly volatile and flammable,” Humphrey said. “So it can fool you at times in thinking what’s in compliance and what’s not. … We ask people to have that discussion with firefighters – to look at the materials online and make certain that they’re keeping their home as safe as possible.”
Crews were expected to work overnight into Tuesday morning to mop up hot spots and ensure flames don’t escape containment lines.
It was not immediately clear what sparked the fire, and the cause is under investigation.