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North Hills fire sparked by homeless man

January 4, 2012 12:03:12 AM PST
Police say the fire that began along the 405 Freeway in the North Hills area on Wednesday was sparked accidentally by a homeless man using a propane tank to cook.

Firefighters responded to the first blaze at Devonshire Street next to southbound lanes just before 11 a.m. Shortly after the fire was knocked down, another small fire erupted directly across the freeway near the northbound side.

The flames threatened several homes and businesses in the area, and a number of people were forced to evacuate.

"It was very dangerous, it was very close," said Harry Siapkas, owner of Holiday Burger.

Police say the fire began when a homeless man's propane tank fell over. The man ran to a nearby Caltrans crew to alert them, and then fled the scene.

According to the Los Angeles Fire Department, the second fire was likely sparked by an ember from the first fire.

The body of a homeless person was found after the second blaze was knocked down. Police say the man died as a result of the fire, but the incident is not being investigated as a homicide.

Police say they want to question the man who may have started the fire. He was described as white, 5 feet, 4 inches, 200 pounds, with shoulder-length blond hair.

It is unknown if he will face charges.