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Fire Chars Bluffs

By Lookout Staff

November 28 – More than 100 firefighters extinguished a blaze started by a homeless man Sunday night that blackened two acres of bluff overlooking Santa Monica State Beach.

The flames – which were reported around 9 p.m. on the 300 block of Ocean Avenue – were whipped by winds halfway up the steep bluffs and scorched the north end of Palisades Park, fire officials said.

“The flames came up and some embers drifted to the east side of Ocean (Avenue),” said Fire Chief Jim Hone. “It was a good-sized fire.”

The flames leaped from treetop to treetop, but remained confined to a cluster of palms on Ocean Boulevard, said Santa Monica fire Capt. Kent Coble.

It took some 120 firefighters six hours to put out the flames, which did not burn or threaten any buildings, Coble said.

The fire was likely started by a man cooking over an open flame at a homeless encampment, fire officials said.

The man was transported to a local hospital, then transferred to a burn ward, where he is being treated for second degree burns to his scalp, forearms, shoulder, back and hands, police officials said.

"Statements made link him to the incident," said Lt. Frank Fabrega, the police department spokesman.

The investigation is still ongoing and no arrests have been made, Fabrega said.

Los Angeles city and county firefighters helped crews from Santa Monica battle the blaze, Coble said.

Eighteen months ago, the City Council passed a law that prohibits public access to the steep cliffs towering above Pacific Coast Highway, deeming it “an inherently unsafe place for humans.” (see related story)

In approving the law with a 5 to 2 vote, the council noted that “the dense brush can create a fire risk, especially during gusting winds.”

Despite the law, the homeless have continued to use the dense brush for their encampments, with one homeless man even erecting a makeshift structure with a kitchen, bedroom and library, police have said. (see related story)

Many of the homeless have been cited or arrested multiple times but, after a few hours in jail, they return, according to police.

Wires contributed to this report

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