By SARAH SHMERLING and JENNIKA INGRAM
One week after the Palisades fire burned more than 40 acres near The Highlands and Marquez Knolls communities, Palisadians received notifications to evacuate immediately in the early morning hours of Monday, October 28, when a brush fire broke out near Sepulveda Boulevard and the 405 freeway.
The fire, fueled by gusty winds and dry terrain, has burned through more than 700 acres of brush through canyons and hillsides on the western side of the Sepulveda Pass, destroying 12 and damaging five structures.
More than 1,100 personnel responded to the blaze, which was first reported at 1:34 a.m. to California Highway Patrol. The fire quickly grew to 40 acres, jumping to 500 acres by 8 a.m.
Mandatory evacuation orders for roughly 10,000 homes and commercial buildings extended from the 405 freeway on the east to Temescal Canyon Road on the west; Sunset Boulevard/Pacific Coast Highway to the south and Mulholland Drive to the north. Evacuation warnings extended to Topanga Canyon Boulevard.
“I know you are frustrated, I know you are impatient, I know you really want to go home,” Councilmember Mike Bonin said at a media briefing Monday evening. “So do our first responders, they know what they are doing, they have looked at the science, they have looked at the winds, they have looked at the maps.”
Though some orders were downgraded to an evacuation warning, mandatory evacuation orders remained in place for residents east of Temescal Canyon Road and north of Sunset Boulevard as the Post went to print. Mandatory evacuation orders for homes in the Palisades were lifted Wednesday at 5 p.m.
“This is the second evacuation in my lifetime,” Alphabet Streets resident Nader Khosravi explained to the Post Monday morning. “I remember in the ’80s, we had an evacuation, but that was really bad, you could see the fire in the hills; it was like sitting across from a fireplace.”
Khosravi said that he believed he was one of the last residents to leave at around 8 a.m. He went to Palisades Recreation Center, which had been designated an evacuation center.
“What is so wonderful that people don’t know is that people are dropping things off,” Khosravi shared. “I saw this gentleman in a Bentley with his family, and he brought water and donuts, and he had his suitcases there. He came with his wife and his kids, dropped off supplies and left, so there’s hope in this world.”
The Palisades Recreation Center was later transitioned into an evacuation shelter to host those displaced overnight, offering a place to sleep as well as food and updated information.
Schools across Pacific Palisades shut down Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, including the five charter schools. Schools in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District were closed Monday, as well as Santa Monica College and UCLA.
With the 405 not an option, traffic along PCH and Sunset Boulevard was jammed as commuters attempted to make it into work across the city and evacuees made it out of town. California Highway Patrol closed southbound lanes of the 405 Monday morning, which remained closed for about 10 hours.
Topanga Canyon Boulevard was shut down to non-resident drivers and was reopened shortly after 3 p.m. A brief closure of eastbound lanes of Pacific Coast Highway starting at Temescal Canyon Road ended around 10 a.m.
Many businesses around town shut down, including the Palisades Post Office and all of Palisades Village—both of which were in the evacuation zone.
The cause of the fire was reported by officials on Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m.
“Using burn patterns, witness statements and physical evidence, investigators have determined the preliminary cause was an accidental start in the 1800 block of North Sepulveda Boulevard,” LAFD reported. “The fire was likely caused by a tree branch that broke off during the high wind conditions and subsequently landed on nearby powerlines, which resulted in sparking and arcing that ignited brush.”
The Getty fire burned during red flag fire conditions, which continued until 6 p.m. Monday with winds gusting between 35 and 50 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
“Santa Ana winds can trigger extreme fire danger,” an LAFD safety message warned. “Residents living in wildfire-prone areas are encouraged to be prepared in the event of a brush fire, remain vigilant, and familiarize themselves with the Ready-Set-Go program.”
Another red flag warning was expected to take effect on Tuesday evening, October 29, at 11 p.m. and remain in place through Thursday, October 31, at 6 p.m.—with winds on Wednesday, October 30, predicted to be the worst of the season, according to the National Weather Service.
“Tonight at about 11 p.m., we will see some very strong winds,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said at a media briefing Tuesday morning. He said that moisture in the air Tuesday evening would help, but that moisture was expected to drop “dramatically” Wednesday morning.
City News Service contributed to this report.
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