Power tool used to clear brush blamed for LA hillside fire
LOS ANGELES (AP) — More than 250 firefighters raced to the hills overlooking Los Angeles to battle a blaze Tuesday afternoon they say was sparked by someone using a power tool to clear brush in a neighborhood of multimillion-dollar mansions.
Helicopters repeatedly dropped water on the flames as teams of firefighters on the ground set up a perimeter around the houses.
Firefighters aided by light winds and moderate temperatures quickly made progress against the blaze, which burned across 35 to 40 acres, said Los Angeles Fire Department spokeswoman Margaret Stewart.
About 86 homes were evacuated from the steep hillside neighborhood above West Los Angeles and Beverly Hills but none burned and the evacuation orders were lifted Tuesday night.
The fire was 25 percent contained and no longer growing. Firefighters planned to work through the night dousing hot spots.
A firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion and another for a minor burn, authorities said.
One of the evacuees, Bonnie Vogel, said she was tipped to the fire by the sounds of helicopters buzzing her neighborhood Tuesday afternoon.
"I thought either they're looking for a murderer or there's a fire in the canyon," she said.
Soon a neighbor from a home closest to the flames came to her door to tell her firefighters were asking people to leave.
Stewart said firefighters quickly determined the blaze was ignited by someone using a brush-clearing power tool near a home.
"This serves as a strong reminder to residents to only use licensed contractors who follow the safety requirements to include no metal blades and an extinguishing agent at hand," Stewart said.
She added that exhaust manifolds on such tools can quickly get hot enough to ignite dry brush like that found in the hills where the fire began at about 2:30 p.m.
The flames quickly raced up Benedict Canyon, which is surrounded by homes on all sides.
At its height, TV footage showed helicopters making water drop after water drop between brief pauses at a nearby lake to refill as a huge plume of gray smoke curled into the sky above Los Angeles.
The homes surrounding Benedict Canyon include numerous multimillion-dollar mansions overlooking Beverly Hills and West Los Angeles.
Stewart said her agency received help battling the blaze from the Los Angeles County, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Culver City fire departments.