(Editor’s note: the story “LAFD: Homeless Encampment Likely Case of Fire at Ballona Wetlands” ran in Venice Current on on April 7. It is reprinted with permission. Visit: venicecurrent.com.)
A fire that destroyed five acres of wetlands in Playa del Rey on March 23 was most likely caused by a nearby homeless encampment, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.
It took nearly two hours and 54 firefighters to stop the brush fire at the Ballona Wetlands near Bluff Creek Drive, fire officials said.
Fire officials on Wednesday said the fire appears to have started near an area where several RV’s were lined up.
Officials at the wetlands said they were unable to access a fire hydrant on Jefferson Boulevard during the emergency due to a camper parked near it.
Residents in the area say the encampments have been a growing concern. “There have been reports of homeless entering the wetlands in this area. They are pitching tents illegally.”
Although no human injuries were reported–it’s unclear what damage has been done to wildlife in the area.
Environmental activist Rick Swinger says he disagrees with Councilman Mike Bonin who posted on Facebook: that firefighters were “holding the brush fire that broke out in Ballona freshwater marsh to less than one acre . . .No structures are threatened, and no injuries have been reported.”
Swinger says that hundreds of injuries and deaths of the ecosystem took place: “A fire like this will cause a lot of devastation in a protected area like this. This fire will impact the birds, the amphibians, the reptiles, the mammals and the plant life.”
“We need to push encampments back at whatever the cost is. The public is at risk, and so is the wildlife. We have to draw the line. Our children are impacted. Our wildlife is impacted. This isn’t something that anyone should be taken lightly.”