CHRISTOPHER WEBER, Associated Press
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.
There was zero containment of the wildfire near Topanga State Park, but crews slowed its growth aided by cool, moist weather. By Monday, flames had charred just over 2 square miles of trees and heavy brush.
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.
Evacuation orders remained in place and the fire was still threatening at least 500 homes, officials said.
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.
Arson investigators detained and released one person on Saturday and a second person was questioned and then arrested on Sunday, the department said.
AP journalist Emily Wilder contributed to this report from Phoenix.