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Westside resident worries LA will blame future wildfires on homeless




Firefighters work to save burning houses along Linda Flora Drive during the Skirball Fire in Los Angeles, California, December 6, 2017. The Skirball Fiire ignited before 5 a.m. on Wednesday and quickly engulfed 50 acres.
Firefighters work to save burning houses along Linda Flora Drive during the Skirball Fire in Los Angeles, California, December 6, 2017. The Skirball Fiire ignited before 5 a.m. on Wednesday and quickly engulfed 50 acres.
KYLE GRILLOT/AFP/Getty Images

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L.A. Fire Department investigators say the Skirball fire was sparked by an illegal cooking fire at a homeless encampment along Sepulveda Boulevard. Since breaking out in the hillsides along the 405 last week, it's burned more than 400 acres, destroyed six homes and damaged a dozen others.

The cause of the Skirball fire has some people asking how to prevent similar disasters in their own neighborhoods, where someone may have simply been trying to cook a meal or stay warm.

"For us, it's nothing new to have homeless encampments on the hillsides," says Maryam Zar, who lives near where the fire started and is the founding chair of the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness.

Zar spent time reaching out to homeless people in her own westside community, and she worries how the rest of L.A. might blame the homeless for the Skirball fire, as well as future wildfires.

"It's easy to just say, 'Hey, they're bad, it's their fault,'" she says, "but really, unless we find some solutions, this is just a reality that's not going to make us very happy and it will happen over and over again."