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Los Angeles Synagogue Sues Over Destuctive Skirball Fire

(JTA) — The Leo Baeck Temple in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Bel Air has filed a lawsuit against the city and county over last year’s Skirball Fire.

The fire, which broke out on Dec. 6, 2017, destroyed six homes and damaged 12 others, and required the evacuation of about 700 homes as well as an apartment building. It damaged 475 acres.

It was sparked by an illegal cooking fire at an area homeless encampment.

The Temple suffered significant smoke damage and was not be able to reopen its facilities right away following containment of the fire.

The Stephen Wise Temple, American Jewish University’s Familian Campus and the Skirball Cultural Center all were closed due to the fire and the institutions’ Torah scrolls were removed for safekeeping.

The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday against the city and county of Los Angeles by the Leo Baeck Temple alleges that the city and county could have helped to prevent the fire had they not ignored the complaints of residents, the Los Angeles Jewish Journal reported.

The city and county “knew or should have known that this presented a fire hazard, as the area is prone to wildfires because of the trees, bushes and other vegetation and foliage,” according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit also argues that the city and county should have removed the encampment, or at least provided the public with a warning about it.

The temple lists four causes of action, including claims that the city and county maintained a dangerous condition on public property and allowed a public nuisance. It is asking for more than $25,000 in damages.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti declared a local state of emergency in response to the Skirball Fire, requesting state and federal assistance. It was one of several fires burning in southern California. The other fires were known as the Thomas, Rye and Creek fires burning in Ventura County, Santa Clarita and Sylmar. California Gov. Jerry Brown also declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

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