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Two Injured in Wildfire Near LA’s Pacific Palisades

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Two Injured in Wildfire Near LA’s Pacific Palisades
Firefighters work during a wildfire threatening nearby hillside homes in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood on Oct. 21 in Los Angeles. The fire scorched at least 30 acres and prompted mandatory evacuations. Mario Tama / Getty Images

A wildfire that broke out Monday near Los Angeles' wealthy Pacific Palisades area threatened around 200 homes and injured two people, CNN reported.


One firefighter received a minor injury and one civilian was taken to the hospital for respiratory problems, Los Angeles Fire Department Chief (LAFD) Patrick Butler said. The evacuation order was lifted around 8 p.m. Monday, but residents were told to remain alert.

"Everyone in high fire danger areas should be cautious and ready to quickly evacuate, since fire danger weather conditions will continue to be dangerously dry and windy over the next several days," LAFD said, according to CNN.

Firefighters first arrived on the scene around 10:40 a.m. Monday, The Los Angeles Times reported. When it was first reported, the fire measured less than an acre. Within less than an hour, it had spread to 30 acres and by noon it had consumed 40.

The Los Angeles Times described the initial battle:

Shortly after it broke out, the terrain-driven blaze raced uphill toward homes on Charmel Lane and Vista Grande Drive, where some residents fled the neighborhood in cars. Others were on their decks with garden hoses, trying to protect their homes from a wall of advancing flames.

Firefighters pulled hoses from trucks into backyards and stood on roofs to defend homes. Television images showed residents running from the flames as fire engulfed a tree in a backyard, sending a plume of dark smoke billowing over homes. At one point, a resident quickly drove his car from his garage as flames hit his backyard.

But firefighters were largely able to keep the flames away from the homes, and none of them were seriously damaged. This was not an easy feat, however, since the fire was on a hillside.

"This is an extremely challenging fire for hand crews," Butler said, as both The Los Angeles Times and CNN reported. "They're essentially clawing their way up this hillside with rocks coming down on them."

The hilly terrain also caused problems for residents, who were caught in traffic jams as they drove on steep and narrow roads. They were also blocked by firefighting equipment, ABC7 reported.

In total, around 150 county and city firefighters fought the flames. The fire was 10 percent contained as of 9 p.m. Monday.

The Pacific Palisades is an affluent coastal neighborhood home to celebrities like Reese Witherspoon and J.J. Abrams, CNN explained.

Charlie Lyons saw the smoke when he was hiking Monday and told CNN that this was the second time he had seen smoke in the Palisades within three weeks.

"You go into denial immediately, saying, 'I hope it's not what I think it is,'" he told CNN. "We're in a terrible cycle right now."

The immediate cause of the Palisades Fire is not yet known, according to ABC7. Arson is being considered. However, the climate crisis is encouraging the hot, dry conditions that increase fire risk and making fires themselves more extreme.

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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