LA's Skirball Fire caused by fire in homeless camp; Could it happen in Utah?

LA's Skirball Fire caused by fire in homeless camp; Could it happen in Utah? (Photo: CBS)

(KUTV) - Los Angeles firefighters said a cooking fire at a homeless camp is to blame for one of the destructive wildfires burning in California.

According to investigators, the Skirball fire was sparked at an encampment in the densely-populated Sepulveda pass area last week. The fire went on to destroy six homes and damaged 12 others.

It's not clear if the blaze was being considered intentional in nature. No arrests have been made yet.

While it seems unlikely because it's so cold, could this happen in Utah? Fire officials here said yes it can, and it has happened and just in the last few weeks just not to the same extent.

Audra Sorensen is with The Salt Lake City Fire Department, she said hearing what caused the Skirball fire wasn't surprising as 90% of wildfires are human caused. But with Utah being one of the five driest states in the nation, wildfires are always top of mind for them anytime of the year but even more so with the homeless population in the winter, “The truth is when they don't have a home and when it gets a little cold they are going to start a fire somewhere,” she said.

Just last week. a homeless encampment fire is believed to have gotten out of control in Sandy near a canal, fortunately firefighters were able to get out.

Over the weekend, fire swept through a house near downtown Salt Lake that may have been started by homeless people trying to stay warm. Firefighters put out the flames, but not before fire caused extensive damage. “Sometimes they do it along the river, sometimes they do it in an abandoned home, both of those situations have really a lot of fuel,” Sorensen said.

Sorensen said for homeowners is always a good idea to check your defensible space around your home year-round to protect it against wildfires It should be nine-feet all the way around.

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