Latest on SoCal wildfires: Fire near Getty Center started at homeless camp

FILE -- A mansion that survived a wildfire sits on a hilltop as the Getty Center, top right, is visible in distance in the Bel Air district of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)


Updated 6:40 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 12

  • The Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties is the largest and least contained of the Southern California wildfires. It has burned 236,000 acres and is now among the five largest wildfires in state history. The fire is 25 percent contained. There are hundreds of damaged or destroyed structures, and 18,000 more structures are threatened, Cal Fire says.
  • The Rye Fire, that last week forced a brief closure of Interstate 5 near Magic Mountain, has burned 6,000 acres and is now fully contained. Six structures were destroyed, and the fire is still a threat to more than 5,000 structures, according to Cal Fire.
  • The Creek Fire in Los Angeles stands at more than 15,000 acres burned and now has 98 percent containment. Sixty residential buildings were destroyed, and more were damaged.
  • The Lilac Fire in San Diego County killed more than 40 thoroughbred racehorses and destroyed more than 100 homes. It’s 4,100 acres and 95 percent contained.
  • The Skirball Fire near the Getty Center off the 405 Freeway is 422 acres and 85 percent contained. A dozen structures were damaged, and six were destroyed.

More from The Associated Press is below.


LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A cooking fire at a homeless encampment sparked a wildfire last week that destroyed six homes in the Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles, authorities said Tuesday, while the fifth-largest wildfire in California history burning northwest of the city kept expanding and kept thousands out of their homes.

They are among a half-dozen fires that flared in Southern California last week and were driven by fiercely gusting Santa Ana winds.

Arson investigators determined that the Bel Air fire near the world-famous Getty museum was started by an illegal fire at a camp near a freeway underpass, city fire Capt. Erik Scott said.

The camp was empty when firefighters found it but people apparently had been sleeping and cooking there for at least several days, he said.

Northwest of Los Angeles, firefighters protected foothill homes while the fire grew mostly into forest land, Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason said.

Red Flag warnings for fire danger due to Santa Ana winds and a critical lack of moisture were extended into the week, with a possible increase in gusts Thursday into Friday.

Tens of thousands of people remain evacuated, including many from the seaside enclaves of Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria and the inland agricultural town of Fillmore.

Still among evacuees due to smoke Tuesday were Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Eric Burdon and his wife, Marianna, of Ojai. Last week, Burdon wrote on Facebook about having to flee and returning temporarily to find their home still standing with ashes all around.

"A week like this gives you the perspective that life is what truly matters," he wrote.

A photo accompanying the post showed his handprint and signature written in ashes.

Residents near a Carpinteria avocado orchard said the trees could end up saving their homes.

"You have a thick layer of leaves underneath the bottom and they are watered regularly, so it's like a sponge," Jeff Dreyer, who lives nearby, told KEYT-TV. "So the fire gets to the sponge full of water and it slows it down."

Officials handed out masks to those who stayed behind in Montecito, an exclusive community about 75 miles (120 kilometers) from Los Angeles that's home to stars such as Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bridges and Drew Barrymore. Actor Rob Lowe was among residents who evacuated over the weekend.

The blaze β€” known as the Thomas Fire β€” has destroyed more than 680 homes, officials said. It was just partially contained after burning more than 360 square miles (930 square kilometers) of dry brush and timber. The fire has been burning for more than a week.

To the north, San Francisco Bay Area firefighters quickly contained blazes Tuesday that destroyed at least two homes in hills east of Oakland β€” the site of a 1991 firestorm that killed 25 people.


AP reporter John Antczak contributed to this report.

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