Bel Air blaze sparked by cooking fire at homeless encampment

Skirball 85 percent contained as of Tuesday

A firefighter puts out a wildfire in Bel Air (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
A firefighter puts out a wildfire in Bel Air (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

A cooking fire at homeless encampment sparked the Skirball fire that destroyed six homes and damaged dozens of others in Bel Air last week.

The encampment was nestled in a ravine near Sepulveda Boulevard and Interstate 405, which borders the west side of Bel Air, according to the Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority spokesman Tom Waldman called the camp “a little obscure,” adding that outreach teams hadn’t visited the area in at least a few months or possibly up to a year. The camp was destroyed by the fire, leaving the burned remnants of a portable stove, a pot, a cheese grater, fuel canisters and a boombox.

The discovery of the cause of the blaze that scorched one of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods — including the home of former NBA player  Andrei Kirilenko and a vineyard owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch — further highlights to some officials the need to step up services for the city’s homeless. The homeless population in Los Angeles grew 23 percent in the last year to around 58,000.

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The city will convene a task force to address safety issues related to homelessness and will discuss mandatory camp evacuations during times of high fire risk, the Times reported.

By Tuesday, firefighters had contained 85 percent of the Skirball fire. [LAT] — Dennis Lynch