LOS ANGELES — A brushfire authorities believe was ignited by an arsonist swelled Saturday to nearly 800 acres near the affluent Los Angeles neighborhoods of Pacific Palisades and Topanga Canyon, forcing some people to evacuate their homes.
The Palisades Fire that started Friday night flared up Saturday afternoon and quickly escalated in a region surrounded by dry brush and mountainous terrain as ash rained down on nearby communities, creating a fireball effect against the setting sun.
It was 0 percent contained, or surrounded, as of Saturday night, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.
Flames were driven by wind gusts from the south and southwest, according to the National Weather Service, which warned in a tweet that despite 50 percent humidity “fuels are VERY dry.”
The area is dotted with homes bordering Topanga State Park, a popular destination for hiking, recreation and filming. Situated in the Santa Monica Mountains just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, may celebrities call the exclusive area home.
The fire started Friday around 10 p.m. in a remote area of the Pacific Palisades, the Los Angeles Fire Department said. Law enforcement officials said a search was underway for a suspect, NBC Los Angeles reported.
It broke out one day after California Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a revised budget proposal that included $2 billion for emergency wildfire preparation efforts amid another drought and a water crisis at the Oregon border.
The sum would be on top of about $3 billion in annual base funding for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said deputy state fire marshal Lynne Tolmachoff. The extra $2 billion would be shared with the state Office of Emergency Services and the California Military Department, she said.
The governor’s office said the money would be used for firefighting equipment, including airplanes and helicopters, and land management, including helping residents create defensible space around their homes.
California experienced its most destructive fire season last year with more than 4 million acres burned. This year has the potential to be worse as climate change, poor forest management and a dwindling federal firefighting force threaten to overwhelm the dry state.
Dennis Romero contributed.