A successful undertaking to keep the Pacific Palisades safe from fire began at 7 a.m. on May 18 under cloudy skies. After a two-hour sweep of the canyons and hillsides surrounding the area, no active homeless camps were found, and five abandoned campsites along Temescal Canyon Road were cleaned. One individual in the Los Liones Park area that was experiencing homelessness was engaged.
This was the second task force held this year in Pacific Palisades to ensure that there is enforcement of the “no camping” in the very high fire severity zone. Pacific Palisades Senior Lead Officer Brian Espin organized the patrol that assembled at Will Rogers State Beach.
Los Angele Police Department Captain Craig Heredia, the commanding officer of the West Los Angeles Area, addressed a task force of Senior Lead Officers, the LAPD Valley Motor Off-Road officers, the LAPD Beach Detail, a Santa Monica Conservancy Ranger, a California State Ranger, Los Angeles Station 69 Fire Captain Jeff Brown, Councilmember Traci Park’s field deputy Michael Amstel and volunteers from the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness.
Heredia pointed out that the hills are green now, but that it is important that this work continues to prevent future fires. Pacific Palisades is surrounded by land described as Very High Fire Severity Zone.
After a debriefing and being assigned to different areas, teams canvassed hillsides looking for illegal encampments.
This editor accompanied PPTFH’s co-president Sharon Kilbride, Council District 11 Field Deputy Michael Amster and two LAPD officers in the area behind the wall along PCH, below the Huntington Palisades.
There was no evidence of camping, but dead brush was stacked against the Caltrans wall. The owner of the nursery has encroached on the Caltrans 10-ft. area from the wall (PCH) to the hillside.
It was noted that the LAFD brush clearance unit should be notified, so that Caltrans can clear the area. If a fire started there, in an area routinely traveled by the homeless, it will go up the hillside and affect the Huntington Palisades.
Other areas canvassed by teams including the area behind Starbucks along Palisades Drive, and Temescal Canyon and Los Leones. Fire Station 69 was assigned to George Wolfberg Park at Potrero.
Four encampments were cleaned along the “east” side of Temescal Canyon Road. Two were near the playground and two additional campsites were about midway up the road. A fifth encampment was cleaned below the Asilomar bluff side of Temescal.
(PPTFH volunteers have learned that if the Very High Fire Severity areas are cleaned, it makes it less likely that someone will “move in” or return.)
The number of homeless in Pacific Palisades is down now, according to a PPTFH member, but CTN was told that was most likely because of the exceptionally wet spring. Many areas are still muddy from the rain. The number of transients is expected to go up as the weather gets warmer.
The first task force was organized June 1, 2021, by LAPD Captain Jonathan Tom, the former commanding officer of the West Los Angeles area, after an arsonist had set a fire in the Palisades Highlands in May 2021.
“These fires don’t impact just your jurisdiction,” Tom told Circling the News then. “You can’t operate in a silo. When we have relationships and professional contacts, we make it safer for the public. It makes the facilitation that much easier if you know the right person to call.”
At least two additional task forces are planned for this year.