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Cigar-Smoking Teen May Have Ignited Mandeville Canyon Fire

The fire began around 4 p.m. Monday, coming within several feet of area homes.

This article updates a previous version.

The Los Angeles Fire Department said the fire that burned 40 acres in the Mandeville Canyon and Sepulveda Pass area is under active investigation and a cause has not yet been determined.

By Wednesday afternoon the fire was 100 percent contained, and LAFD crews left the scene as of 8:20 p.m.

Although there were no civilian injuries, two firefighters were taken to the hospital with heat-related injuries. They were in fair to serious condition on Wednesday night.

Earlier Wednesday, assistant fire chief and incident commander for the Mandeville Canyon Fire, Robert Franco said a 15-year-old resident's lit cigar may have been the cause of the brushfire. The blaze began around 4 p.m. Monday, burning close to area homes.

“The child was smoking a cigar, so it was an accident. It wasn’t malicious or intentional,” said Franco. “So we counseled the child and we had a conversation with the parents and I think we have that end of it pretty well taken care of.”

The fire began right behind the home where the teen in question lives, in the 3600 block of Mandeville Canyon Road. The initial fire came within 15 to 20 feet of the homes on that side of the street, Franco said.

“So there was some danger to those homes initially, but within a half hour we got our first units on the scene. Then the fire moved away from the homes and we were able to stop it,” Franco said. “There was never a mandatory evacuation, but some people did leave as a precautionary measure.”

Ann Snyder lives across the street from the area where the fire broke out and said waiting for fire trucks to arrive was “terrifying."

“We know living up here where we live that we have a 15-minute interval before fire trucks can even make it up this road. So we know we have to be responsible in how we address fires in our community,” Snyder said.

With her home out of immediate danger, Snyder dragged her hose across the street to hose down the roof of a neighbor’s home, since the residents were not home at the time.

“Each of us has fire hoses and we all know how to turn on each other’s sprinklers,” Snyder said.

Snyder’s neighbors across the street had just moved in, and the first thing they did after taking up residence was to clear brush within 200 feet of their home even though that included a steep incline, Snyder said.

“They were very, very diligent in their brush clearance and because of that fire fighters were able to save those two homes where the fire started,” she said.

Firefighters were extra diligent in keeping the fire from flaming up again because the Mandeville Canyon area is an extremely dangerous place to have a fire, according to Battalion Chief Gerry Malais.

“This canyon is seven miles long with one way in and out, so if we had to evacuate the residents because the fire was sweeping down the canyon, it would be very difficult to get them all out and get fire resources in,” Malais said.

Bob Kirk September 07, 2011 at 09:01 PM
So a 15 year old with a 'stogie"- 0k who is paying for the LAFD expense$, etc. Where'd he get it, do his folks let him smoke them, bill them !!
Robin Tuverson September 07, 2011 at 09:46 PM
Is he related to Arnold?
Joseph Rudnick September 08, 2011 at 04:06 AM
I would like a more complete explanation of how this fire started. It does not sound particularly plausible that a 15 year old does not know what happens when hot ash is flicked into dry brush. If there had been more wind many of us could now be homeless.
Amanda Salem September 08, 2011 at 04:18 AM
Hi Joseph, LAFD says the scene is under "active investigation." When we get a report from them, we will absolutely pass it along!
Patricia Logan September 08, 2011 at 04:18 PM
I am appalled that the outcome is merely a talk to the boy and his parents - our lives and homes could have been destroyed. Who is paying for this fire protection? And the homes above 3600 were given a mandatory evacuation notice from a helicopter at 4:20 p.m.
Russell Martin September 08, 2011 at 09:26 PM
AFC Franco, I dont consider this issue "pretty well taken care of". At minimum the minor shoud be cited with penal code 308b and his parents should be held financially responsible.
Sam Schoemann September 09, 2011 at 09:17 PM
I'm in complete agreement with my neighbor Patricia Logan. As a parent, I can understand that children (as well as grown-ups) are capable of stupid behavior. That said, it should not go unpunished. At a minimum, a letter of apology from the boy to each resident above 3600 block would be in order.

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