(Editor’s note: The following story is reprinted with permission by the Venice Current. It ran on April 21, 2021.)
VENICE- “It was yelping so loud–the sound isn’t the usual dog sound–it was suffering. It was suffering.”
A woman who lives behind the home that burned Wednesday morning says they are devastated after waking up to a fire that destroyed a home and took the life of the family dog.
“My neighbor picked up a scooter and started ramming into the walls. He was doing all he could to break in and save the woman who lives there and her dog,” said Cecily–a neighbor who wishes to have her last name withheld for safety reasons.
“The dog kept yelping –and then it stopped.”
It took 26 firefighters to put out the fire at 31 E Clubhouse Avenue, across from the Westminster Dog Park.
The fire started around 3:00 a.m. Wednesday, April 21, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.
The owner of the home– a doctor–was working at the time of the fire. Her dog, a husky mix, was home and did not survive the fire.
In an email sent to city officials by neighbor John Betz, he said: “The entire neighborhood is devastated. This tragedy could have been way worse than it is.”
“Had it been a windy night, likely, the fire would not have been contained to this one structure. Plain and simple – an entire neighborhood was threatened, both life and property. This tragedy is the direct responsibility of all of you city officials [on this email thread], especially you [Councilmember] Mike Bonin and you Dexter O’Connel and you [Mayor] Eric Garcetti.”
Betz said he spoke to a fire investigator on the scene who told him that the [LAFD] initial belief is someone in the alley threw a burning object over the fence.
Betz said neighbors have been complaining about the escalating encampments in Westminster Park and along Main Street adjacent to the park for months [now].
“The people in these encampments have demonstrated hostile behavior towards we residents. They do drugs in the alleys behind our houses, they are running illegal activities out of their tents and their RV’s, especially this one parked adjacent to the pre-school fence and right across the street from the fire.
Other neighbors immediately surrounding the fire echo Betz and Cecily.
(To read the letters from neighbors written to Bonin’s office regarding the homeless encampments near Westminster Elementary and near the location of the fire. Visit: https://www.venicecurrent.com/news/local/family-dog-dies-in-clubhouse-avenue-fire-arson-suspected/article_8d20140c-a2c5-11eb-a6fa-2fb20a76091b.html )
Betz said, ” . . . In the meantime, the homeless have set fires in our alleys (neighbors have discovered several active fires burning in the alley near their homes on prior occasions), stolen trash cans, damaged property – the list goes on and on. We have been crying out for help and received none.”
“This morning, as I watched women weeping in our alley. You leave us residents no choice to protect our person, our families, our property,” Betz said.
“You don’t realize the toll it takes on you,” describes Cecily of the constant struggles with the encampments. “It impacts your work — you are on edge, you can’t sleep at night. “We feel we have been left for the wolves. Everyone is scared in our community. What’s next?”