Homeless man, 48, accused of causing Palisades fire

A homeless man who authorities said was seen sparking small fires in Pacific Palisades that grew into a larger one and had investigators searching for him for days – with pursuing deputies at one point dropping from a helicopter – was identified on Tuesday, May 18.

Meanwhile, the fire’s path had scorched 1,158 acres so far and it was 47% contained as of Tuesday evening, Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Ron Haralson said.

Ramon Santos Rodriguez, 48, was taken into custody Sunday afternoon and booked on suspicion of felony arson, said Officer Lizeth Lomeli, a Los Angeles police spokeswoman. He was being held on $101,000 bail.

At around 10 p.m. Friday, firefighters responded to multiple fires in the steep and remote terrain in the 1800 block of Michael Lane.

On Saturday morning, helicopter pilots saw a man moving through the brush along a hillside near the fire and igniting additional fires, the Los Angeles Fire Department said in a statement.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were lowered into the brush to try to find and apprehend the man, officials said, but retreated because of fast-growing fires.

At about 11 a.m. Sunday, a private security guard saw a man matching the suspect’s description emerging from the brush in the 1200 block of Palisades Drive and called police. Rodriguez was taken into custody and then brought to the hospital for smoke inhalation, fire officials said.

He was not identified until Tuesday by authorities. Investigators were expected to present their case for filing consideration to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

All evacuation orders were lifted Monday; and an evacuation warning was also canceled Tuesday.

“It’s looking good today,” Haralson said. “We had a flare-up earlier, but winds were well  under control. We’re continuing to see the containment number go up.”

Helicopters continued to drop water in remote areas on Tuesday, and helped ground crews quickly douse a spot fire that sprang up past the containment line at the northern edge of the blaze, LAFD Capt. Erik Scott said on social media. It ignited at about 2:56 p.m., and was held to within one-tenth of an acre.

A Smoke Advisory for the fire was extended to Wednesday.

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