Supervisors Pass Motion to Close Homeless Encampments in High Fire Zones

Annemarie DonkinBy Annemarie Donkin      August 20, 2021

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Supervisors Pass Motion to Close Homeless Encampments in High Fire Zones
The Supervisors’ motion regarding homeless encampments during Red Flag days is an opportunity for the County’s unincorporated areas to to prevent fires in High Fire Zones, including Topanga.
On Aug. 10, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors moved to address the critical issues of cooking/camp fires in homeless encampments in very high fire hazard severity zones. On Red Flag Days in the Santa Monica Mountains, members of Arson Watch in Topanga and Malibu are on high alert for signs of fire. A homeless encampment cooking fire was implicated in at least one fire, the recent Las Flores fire in Tuna Canyon that threatened nearby homes. The Cities of Los Angeles and Malibu already have ordinances on the books regarding homeless encampments during Red Flag days but the latest motion is an opportunity for Los Angeles County’s unincorporated areas to prevent fires in Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones (VHFHSZ) including Topanga. The motion, authored by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Kathryn Barger, states in part: “Wildfires are a frequent natural disaster in California, causing significant harm and loss to individuals, communities, wildlife and great swaths of natural landscape; the frequency, duration and size of wildfires have increased over the last several decades.” The ordinance would require identification of homeless encampments and elimination of those camps to prevent fires largely due to cooking and camping. “While many People Experiencing Homelessness (PEH) live in our urban centers, a growing number have taken refuge in more remote, mountainous regions,” the motion states. “As more people, both housed and unhoused, live within high fire zones, the risk of fires starting and causing harm and loss of life has also increased. To mitigate the risk of fires, the L.A. County Fire Department (LACoFD) should prohibit homeless encampments in Unincorporated County areas designated as “Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones.” The motion also states in part: “All necessary efforts to connect PEH in these regions to resources should be led by the Los Angeles Housing Services Authority’s (LAHSA) best practices for addressing street encampments, ensuring that no individual is criminalized simply for not having a home.” The job of enforcing the motion to eliminate campfires in the brushy wildland of Malibu and Topanga will fall on the shoulders of L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, the L.A. County Fire Department, and LAHSA. “We’re working with our partners at the County to develop a plan, but whatever shape that takes, it will likely be in alignment with our best practices for addressing street encampments,” wrote a spokesperson for LAHSA. (lahsa.org) Meanwhile, Lieutenant James Braden of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department at Malibu/Lost Hills, said they are already in the field talking with the homeless in the Santa Monica Mountains and Malibu. “Deputies started passing out fire safety pamphlets along the coastline to McDonald’s on PCH, at Big Rock, Tuna Canyon, Topanga Canyon Blvd., the Rodeo Grounds and hiking back into the Canyon,” Braden said. “Malibu has a similar resolution, what with drought and all the fire conditions that are ripe for massive fires.” For more information: https://lasd.org/malibu-lost-hills
Annemarie Donkin

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August 20, 2021

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