Thursday, December 14, 2017

Preventing Future Fires in LA's Bluffs and Canyons

This is my reply to Carissa Ashley Tedesco’s post on the Venice Community FB page:
“They just announced that the Skirball fire was caused by an illegal cooking fire at a homeless encampment. Venice would’ve been burned down 1000 times over if we had trees and brush. All those devastated lives. It just enrages me.”

Carissa, thank you for your original post. The City has been aware of the potential for such a fire for years but has not brought the resources to bare to prevent it. A year or two ago we saw a fire in the Palisades Bluffs started from a homeless encampment. Fortunately, there was little wind and the LAFD was on it quickly and kept it from coming up the bluffs and igniting the homes atop the bluff. Since then there has been some attention to keeping people from living in the bluffs and canyons but not at zero tolerance level, which is what is needed. Garcetti was rather glib, saying that the City just could not protect against every eventuality, in effect saying that it was OK with him for residents to live with the risk of the loss of their homes and possibly their lives. This is not to mention the high cost to the City from such a fire as we just saw in Bel Air. We have seen the danger here in Venice, too. Last year a homeless woman lit a fire in a dumpster behind the St. Joseph Center's drop-in center on Lincoln. The fire spread and the smoke engulfed the house next to the alley. The pregnant resident was told by the EMT's that for her health and the health of her unborn child that she must evacuate the house for several days to avoid the smoke. Residents near the center have long requested 24-hour security because the homeless do not leave the area when the center closes for the evening. Of course, St. Joseph's has never responded. The City's acceptance of homeless encampments next to residences is perverse. Rick Swinger's proposal to establish camps of high-quality tents, with adjoining toilets and showers, on public land at some set-back from residences and businesses, with constant social service presence, is long overdue. Along with daily removal of campers from public lands which are at risk for fire. Measure H will produce $335 million a year for services. The County should spend a percentage on rapid housing, including motel vouchers, family reunification and high-quality tents on platforms, like Rick has proposed. Accepting the fire risk, as Garcetti and Bonin do, is grossly irresponsible.