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Arson Suspected in Los Angeles Brushfire

A brush fire erupted in the Los Angeles' sprawling Griffith Park on Tuesday as dangerously windy, hot and dry conditions plagued Southern California.

A brush fire erupted in Los Angeles' sprawling Griffith Park on Tuesday as dangerously windy, hot and dry conditions plagued Southern California.

A towering column of smoke rose over the city as the city and county fire departments rushed 120 firefighters and five water-dropping helicopters to the 4,200-acre park, which straddles hills between Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley. Neighborhoods of homes are adjacent to much of the park.

The blaze was estimated at 50 to 100 acres, including widely spaced spot fires that crawled up ridges, and engulfed trees. Smoke-filtered light cast an orange glow over downtown.


"Initial reports are that it could be suspicious," said city Fire Department spokeswoman Melissa Kelley.

Fire officials notified police they had detained someone, said Officer April Harding, a police spokeswoman. "We have a possible suspect in custody for the arson, this person is actually at the hospital," she said.

Authorities planned to interview a person with burns at a local hospital, police Sgt. James Zboravan said.

Rangers were evacuating the park's Vermont Canyon area, which includes the Los Angeles Zoo, two golf facilities, a merry-go-round and a magnate school, said Jane Kolb, a city Department of Recreation and Parks spokeswoman.

"We are evacuating zoo patrons. They obviously see the fire. We have their safety in mind," said Jason Jacobs, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Zoo. He said zoo officials were evaluating the situation to determine if any other action would be needed.


Fire Capt. Rex Vilaubi said the evacuations were voluntary and the areas were not in imminent danger of being overrun.

The Autry National Center, which includes a museum of Western artifacts, also was evacuated, Kelley said.

Firefighters stopped flames from advancing toward the Los Feliz neighborhood on the south edge of the park, Kelley said.

The Griffith Observatory also is in the park but was not in danger, Kelley said.

In March a fire burned 150 acres of brush in Griffith Park. Authorities said it was started by two boys playing with fire.

To the south in San Diego County, a 750-acre brush fire burned on a remote area of the Camp Pendleton Marine base.

The fire broke out Monday night during training in a target practice area. No buildings were nearby and nobody was injured, camp Fire Inspector Bill Gick said.

The fire "was smoldering," Gick said. "It's stationary and not going anywhere."

In neighboring Orange County, a 140-acre fire in Featherly Regional Park was 70 percent contained.

Several daily heat records were broken Monday. Among them, Los Angeles International Airport recorded a high of 88, beating the 80-degree record set in 1984.