LA fire began in homeless community authorities reveal, sparking fears of backlash

A wildfire which destroyed six Los Angeles mansions valued at $20 million was started in a homeless camp, authorities said on Wednesday.

The homeless community fear a backlash after the Los Angeles fire department revealed the fire began as a cooking fire under a freeway 20 miles from the city centre. 

“These kind of reports are never good for us in general,” Laurie Craft, from the winter shelter Hope of the Valley, told the Guardian. 

“Are people going to react the same way to someone who works a job and has a car [as] to someone who’s homeless? 

“Or is it worse in their eyes?”

The fire broke out on December 6 just before 5 am at a homeless encampment under Interstate 405 and Sepulveda Boulevard in Los Angeles County, the department said. 

A building on the vineyard estate of media mogul Rupert Murdoch catches fire during the Skirball fire in Bel Air, a wealthy neighborhood on the west side of Los Angeles, California

It then spread through arid landscapes and was fanned by strong winds, which have exacerbated five other fires in the state in the past week.

Named the Skirball fire, the inferno has burned more than 400 acres, destroyed six homes and damaged 12 others in the wealthy Bel-Air district of Los Angeles. 

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It also scorched a building at a winery owned by billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Mr Murdoch’s winery, Moraga Vineyards, where he lives with Jerry Hall, was evacuated last week as the fire bore down on the grounds, a spokeswoman said.

Later a structure on the property was seen on fire as crews worked to extinguish the flames.

A burnt out house is seen after the Skirball wildfire swept through the exclusive enclave of Bel AirCredit:

On Tuesday fire officials said 85 percent of it had been contained, but dozens of firefighters continued to battle the remaining areas affected. 

Hundreds of homeless communities sprawl across Los Angeles’s freeway network, home to many of the county’s estimated 58,000 homeless people. 

As temperatures drop a number of them rely on lighting fires to keep warm or cook. 

The US – and cities like LA in particular – have seen a significant rise in its homeless population as soaring housing costs push more people onto the street.

A firefighter controls flames burning in a home at the Skirball Fire in the upscale Bel- Air section of west Los AngelesCredit:

Just last week a report revealed the number of homeless people in the US has increased for the first time since 2010.

Around 554,000 people were homeless, the report from the department of housing and urban development said.

Los Angeles saw the number of homeless inhabitants rise to 55,000 – an increase of almost a quarter in a single year.

Ben Carson, secretary of the department of housing and urban development, said that in cities like Los Angeles and New York rents were rising "much faster" than incomes. 

"This is not a federal problem – it’s everybody’s problem,” he said in a statement.

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