USA — The Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACFD) on Tuesday declared the containment of the most destructive wildfire in 15 years in Malibu, about 50 kilometers northwest of Los Angeles.
“This has definitely been one of the worst fires we’ve had herein the Malibu area,” Los Angeles County fire Capt. Gil Sanchez said of the blaze. “This fire took so many homes so quickly due to the Santa Ana winds that blew in such a short period of time.”
Sheriff’s arson investigators have “collected substantial evidence” that the fire broke out in an area of Corral Canyon known as the “cave,” a local hangout, said sheriff’s Sgt. Diane Hecht.
The fire began at 3:30 a.m. local time on Saturday off an isolated dead-end mountain road that residents say is notorious for late-night parties that feature bonfires and dangerous activity.
Officials said the fire destroyed 53 homes, 35 outbuildings, 37vehicles and one mobile home, and damaged 45 structures. Damages may reach nearly 100 million U.S. dollars.
Investigators say the fire that forced the evacuation of as many as 14,000 residents was started by “human activity,” but have not determined whether it was deliberately set.
The blaze came four weeks after downed power lines in Malibu Canyon caused another wind-whipped wildfire that scorched 4,500 acres (about 182 hectares).
State, county, city and federal officials opened a local assistance center on Tuesday to assist Malibu area fire victims.
“The Malibu center will serve anyone affected by the fire who may need recovery information,” said Mike Hall of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.