L.A. Officials Will Crack Down on Homeless Encampments in Fire-Prone Areas
Officials in the City of Los Angeles have been roused to action after learning that at least one of last month’s devastating wildfires was caused by activities at a nearby homeless encampment.
On Friday, fire officials said they would begin surveying encampments in about 20% of the city, including Hollywood Hills, Los Feliz, Sherman Oaks, Sunland-Tujunga and Mt. Washington.
"We want those people in these [fire] zones to voluntarily move," Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas said. "It's as clear cut as that. This is a public safety issue, this is a trespassing issue."
The survey, which should take about a week to complete, is part of a broader effort to clear the makeshift homes hidden in Los Angeles' hillsides and ravines, and prevent accidental blazes. The effort comes amid a surge in the city's homeless population and rising concern over wildfire risk.
The Los Angeles Fire Department, the mayor’s office, and the Los Angeles Homeless Authority have established a new task force dedicated to documenting and removing homeless encampments in fire-prone areas.
“That (Skirball) fire destroyed six homes and damaged a dozen others all because someone was desperate to have something to eat or to keep warm,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said, referencing the Skirball Fire near Bel Air.
But it isn’t just Bel Air. Another blaze in the Sunland-Tujunga area which scorched 13 acres on Dec. 28 may have also originated at a nearby homeless encampment, the mayor said.