Arson suspected, two questioned as early-season Palisades Fire spreads in L.A. outskirts, prompting evacuation orders for some 1,000

A smoky wildfire churning through a Los Angeles canyon community gained strength Sunday as about a thousand residents remained under evacuation orders while others were warned they should get ready to leave, authorities said.

The cause of the fire near Topanga State Park – being called the Palisades Fire — has been deemed “suspicious” and is under investigation, the Los Angeles Fire Department said.

Arson investigators with the fire department and the Los Angeles Police Department identified one individual who was detained and released. Investigators then detained a second suspect and were questioning him or her Sunday evening, according to a statement from fire department spokesperson Margaret Stewart.

Investigators also said they were aware of social media posts spreading unconfirmed information about possible suspects, with one app even posting a picture and telling of a $30,000 reward. Officials have asked that the fire investigation be left to the experts.

“We don’t people on social media to speculate unnecessarily. Give us the time to do a thorough investigation and we’ll provide you that information,” LAFD Captain  Erik Scott told CBS Los Angeles.

Cool, moist weather early in the day gave firefighters a break, but by afternoon flames starting moving again in steep terrain where tinder-dry vegetation hasn’t burned in a half-century, the fire department said. The vegetation consists of old, heavy growth, CBS L.A. reported.

“We’re definitely seeing increased fire activity,” said Stewart.

Crews relied on aircraft making non-stop drops of water and retardant because “the terrain is very steep and extremely difficult to navigate which hinders ground based firefighting operations,” a fire department statement said.

Hundreds of firefighters on the ground, including multiple hand crews, tried to stop the flames, CBS L.A. said.

No structures were damaged and no injuries were reported in the wildfire that broke out late Friday in the Santa Monica Mountains. It smoldered for much of Saturday before erupting in the afternoon.

A thousand or so residents of the Topanga Canyon area were ordered to evacuate their homes as flames raced along ridges, sending a huge plume of smoke and raining ash across surrounding neighborhoods and the U.S. 101 freeway to the north.

By Sunday evening, the fire had charred a little over 2 square miles of brush and trees. There was no containment. The Los Angeles sheriff’s department’s Lost Hills station tweeted that the evacuation orders would remain in effect throughout the night.

Los Angeles has seen very little rain in recent months, making for extremely parched conditions and high fire risk.

Topanga Canyon is a remote, wooded community with some ranch homes about 20 miles west of downtown Los Angeles, on the border with Malibu.

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