Originally posted at 11:35 a.m. My 14, 2014. Edited to add new new details.
A 50-acre brush fire broke out today in the Los Cerritos Wetlands in Long Beach and spread to palm trees at a nearby hotel, prompting evacuations and sending one firefighter to a hospital for observation due to heat exhaustion.
The fire started for unknown reasons near the Marketplace shopping center about 9:40 a.m. and was 95 percent contained this afternoon, according to the Long Beach Fire Department.
Gusty winds spread embers that sparked palm trees and damaged some balconies at the SeaPort Marina Hotel at 6400 Pacific Coast Highway, prompting the evacuation of about 80 people, fire officials said.
Long Beach firefighters, backed up by Los Angeles County crews, used helicopters to make water drops on parts of the fire burning in muddy and inaccessible areas.
"It is not usual that a wetlands catches fire, but there is a significant amount of dry grass in the area," LBFD spokesman Will Nash said.
Pacific Coast Highway, which was temporarily closed near Second Street, was reopened in both directions this afternoon, but Second Street and Marina Drive were expected to remain off-limits to traffic until sometime tonight, according to the fire department.
LBFD Battalion Chief Paul Alvarado said crews remained on high alert.
"We're going to be here for awhile," Alvarado said. "Any time we have an incident like this and we are worried about a flare-up, we are going to keep units here to make sure nothing flares up."
The cause of the fire was under investigation.
Investigators were trying to determine if the arrest of a man early this morning at a Mobil station near the wetlands was somehow tied to the wetlands blaze, Nash said.
Harmon Pratt, 55, of Long Beach was arrested in the same general area, near Marina Drive and Second Street, for allegedly trying to set fires about 1:30 a.m., according to Long Beach police spokeswoman Marlene Arrona.
Pratt was initially held as a person of interest for allegedly trying to ignite a pump at the gas station and a tree near the hotel, Arrona said.
--City News Service