‘Palermo Fire’ Still Under Investigation Fire Officials Say

By CHRISTIAN MONTERROSA | Reporter

Fire officials are still investigating a small brush fire that broke out above The Highlands last week on Tuesday, August 13, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The fire, dubbed the Palermo Fire, grew uphill to five acres in light winds after breaking out behind some homes on the 17700 block of West Calle De Palermo. The fire was officially downgraded later to 2.3 acres, according to LAFD Spokesperson Brian Humphrey.

Several factors on the fire had “yet to be determined” on Monday, August 19, but the case remained open.

“It’s not a closed case,” said Humphrey, who added that many small fires remain under investigation and never solved due to a lack of inconclusive evidence.

Palisadians in the area anxiously watched the flames scorch the hillside as they awaited further instructions that never came and were not asked to evacuate.

After ground and air attack crews knocked out the flames, firefighters remained in the area throughout the night to keep watch for any flare ups.

The high humidity and low wind speeds of the day left the neighborhood unscathed, but quickly brought back the topic of fire safety to the forefront of Highlands residents.

Residents reported suddenly seeing large flames and smoke coming from the hillside, as some scrambled to hook up their garden hoses while firefighters drove up Palisades Drive.

Several weeks prior, residents had taken the fire department’s warnings to heart and hired brush clearance crews to leave “defensible space” around their properties, according to one resident who watched as the firefighters turned over the remaining hotspots behind his home.

California has notably seen significantly less wildfire activity in 2019, but weather experts believe that can quickly change.

“By October and November … California will re-enter the fire season as foehn wind events begin to develop,” said a fire outlook report by the National Interagency Fire Center on August 1. “Concerns this year are higher than average due to the presence of an abundant crop of fine fuels in the lower to middle elevations.”

In the Palisades, fire officials and community leaders have mentioned the idea of creating a plan for getting out of one of the worst ranked fire zones in the city, like the practice evacuation that took place in nearby Mandeville Canyon on May 19.

“It is still too soon to gauge whether offshore winds will be more active this fall than usual,” said the NIFC report. “But should [sea surface temperatures] continue to evolve and align as they seem to be doing, this could be a very active autumn fire season.”