LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Authorities Tuesday identified the man arrested in connection with the Palisades Fire, which threatened homes in Pacific Palisades and Topanga over the weekend.
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Ramon Santos Rodriguez, 48, who is said to be homeless, was charged Tuesday with one felony count each of arson of a structure or forest and arson during a state of emergency, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Rodriguez was taken into custody Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
The Palisades Fire was first reported at 10 p.m. on May 14 in the 1800 block of North Michael Lane, in a canyon with steep and difficult-to-reach terrain. It quickly exploded Saturday, spreading northeast. It was burning in brush that had not seen a fire in 75 years, authorities said.
On Saturday, it forced the evacuation of about 500 homes in the Topanga area. On Sunday, about 100 homes in Pacific Palisades were also given an evacuation warning.
However, firefighters made progress on the blaze, and by Monday evening, all evacuation orders were lifted.READ MORE: Suspicious Vehicle In Beverly Hills Prompts Response From Bomb Squad
As of Tuesday night, the fire had burned nearly 1,200 acres and was 47% contained. No homes were damaged or destroyed. On Tuesday, 525 firefighting personnel from multiple agencies were continuing to battle the blaze on the ground and in the air, including the L.A. city and county fire departments and CAL Fire.
On the morning of Saturday, May 15, L.A. Fire Department (LAFD) chopper pilots noticed a man moving in the brush on a steep hillside near the fire. LAPD helicopters were called in to monitor the man and noticed him setting several fires, LAFD reported in a news release Tuesday.
LAFD tried to lower L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies into the area to apprehend the man Saturday, but due to the rapid spread of the fires, they were forced to retreat. It’s unclear if those new fires merged with the Palisades Fire or helped it grow.
Just before 11 a.m. Sunday, the suspect emerged from the brush in the 1200 block of Palisades Drive and was recognized a private security guard, who immediately called LAPD. The man, later identified as Rodriguez, was apprehended.
He was initially taken to a hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation before being booked on arson. Rodriguez pleaded not guilty Tuesday to the charges and a preliminary hearing was scheduled for June 1.MORE NEWS: Retailers Left In Fear After Recent Rash Of Smash-And-Grab Robberies
He is being held on $350,000 bail.