Fire: A homeless man was arrested for starting the fire. LAFD

The homeless man accused of starting the Palisades fire was arrested after police officers in a helicopter saw him starting additional fires in the already burning brushland. 

Ramon Rodriguez Flores was identified as the suspect Tuesday and is currently held on $75,000 bail. According to LAFD, Flores was seen actively starting several fires. 

“On Saturday morning, LAFD helicopter pilots observed an adult male moving around in the brush  along a steep hillside near the fire,” said a statement from LAFD. “The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) air patrol was  dispatched to monitor the individual. Officers from the West Los Angeles Community Police Station  kept watch on the ground while the Air Support Division provided eyes in the sky. During an aerial  observation, the Tactical Flight Officer witnessed the individual ignite multiple additional fires.”

Arson investigators from LAFD requested the assistance of specialized deputies from the Los  Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Emergency Services Detail to locate and apprehend the alleged  suspect within the rugged terrain. Deputies were lowered into the brush to begin their search but because the fires were growing rapidly, deputies were forced to retreat. 

Flores was arrested on Sunday when a private security officer saw him emerge from the brush and recognized him as a suspect. Police officers were called and Flores was arrested. 

Firefighters have worked to begin containing the fire. Despite burning in trees and heavy brush, its growth was slowed with the aid of cool, moist weather and its size remained at about 2 square miles, authorities said.

Air tankers battled the blaze after being unable to fly in the morning because of cloud cover.

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.

Evacuation orders were lifted Monday evening.

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,” said Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas said.

Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...