Palermo Fire in Palisades Short Lived

Around 2:16 p.m. on August 13, LA County Fire Department reported a brush fire burning above the gated community of Palisades Country Estates in the Pacific Palisades Highlands on the eastern edge of Topanga State Park. Within minutes, the fire spread up a steep slope, burning several acres of dense brush. The wind carried smoke and ash from the fire into Topanga Canyon, but the fire was contained before it could crest the ridge and move into the canyon. By 3:30 p.m. most of the fire had been knocked down by air and ground crews.

LA City helicopters were the first on the scene, making water drops and refilling from hydrants located at the nearby Santa Ynez Reservoir. The aircraft were soon joined by LA County Fire Hawks, drawing water from the 69 Bravo Helispot on Saddle Peak. Simon T, the former owner of the 69 Bravo property, told the Messenger Mountains News that if the water-dropping aircraft had not stopped the fire before it reached the ridge, the fire could easily have spread into the park. 

“The winds are different up there, they could have driven embers into the park,moving the fire into Topanga,” he said, adding that the Firehawk helicopters drew three 1000-gallon loads from 69 Bravo to combat the fire. Although having a close source of water for the aircraft was an essential tool for firecrews, neither this fire nor the recent Cheney Fire were driven by Santa Ana winds. 

The terrain-driven Palermo fire, pushed uphill by mild onshore winds, burned between five and seven acres of dense vegetation moving in the direction of Topanga State Park. No structures or injuries were reported. The cause of the fire is under active investigation, but the ignition point was immediately behind the row of houses on the edge of the parkland.

All of the indicators point to a long, potentially deadly fire season in the Santa Monica Mountains this year. “It’s important not to get complacent,” Simon T said. 

High-powered oceanographic cameras at 69 Bravo captured first signs of smoke from Palermo Fire in the Palisades. Helicopter crew is on standby at the helipads. Photo courtesy of LACoFD 69 Bravo Helispot
LA County Fire Hawk snorkels up 1000 gallons of water from 69 Bravo’s Pumpkin #1 that holds 6,000 gallons of water. Photo courtesy of LACoFD 69 Bravo Helispot
Smoke from the Palermo fire briefly filled Topanga Canyon, bringing a rain of ash, but the blaze was extinguished before it reached the crest of the mountain in Topanga State Park. While the focus was on the firefighting aircraft, ground crews were also essential. Fire engines raced to the ignition site to protect houses and stamp out embers on the scorched hillside. Photo by Suzanne Guldimann


Flavia Potenza

Flavia Potenza is executive editor of the Messenger Mountain News. She is also a founding member of the 40-year old Topanga Messenger that closed its doors in 2016. She can be reached at

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