Skirball Fire started by Illegal cooking at homeless encampment; officials say

LOS ANGELES, California - An illegal cooking fire at an encampment near a Los Angeles freeway sparked a fast-moving wildfire last week that destroyed homes in the Bel-Air neighborhood and closed down a major freeway, authorities said Tuesday.

The Los Angeles Fire Department said that the cooking fire in a brush area near Sepulveda Boulevard where it passes underneath the 405 Freeway was the cause of the so-called Skirball Fire, which broke out at around 5 a.m. Wednesday destroyed six homes.

There have been no arrests, the Fire Department said. The fire was at a homeless encampment, LAFD public information director Peter Sanders said. It was unclear if the blaze was considered intentional in nature.

The Skirball Fire forced the closure of the 405 freeway, a major north-south artery in Los Angeles, and prompted worries that it could jump the freeway and threaten the Getty Museum and its priceless art collection. The fire also forced the evacuation of about 700 homes and an apartment building. It also shut down the 405 Freeway for several hours.

The fire, which burned more than 400 acres, was 85 percent contained on Tuesday, the Fire Department said.

The fire broke out as firefighters across Southern California battles several other large wildfires, the largest of which, the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, was 20 percent contained as of Tuesday afternoon, according to Cal Fire.

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