Last week, two different fires were discovered in the brush north of Sunset, below El Medio Drive – in the Temescal Gateway Park area. The first was reported in the late afternoon on May 10, the second came a day later in about the same location. Luckily, there was no wind and with a prompt response by Stations 23 and 69, the fires were extinguished.
A resident wrote on Nextdoor: “Over the past few days, someone (or more than one person) has set multiple fires in Temescal, below El Medio. We are very grateful for the quick and expert responses on the part of the fire and arson teams, but we remain concerned that the suspect (tall and lanky white man, looks to be in his 20s, according to our neighbor who caught him in the act yesterday) is unaccounted for as fire season looms. Please be vigilant. Any information appreciated. The firemen have reported this information to the police and park officials.”
Sharon Kilbride, co-president of the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness (PPTFH), said in a May 13 email to Circling the News: “Today we met with residents, LAPD and LAFD arson specialists in the area of the four (TWO) recent fires.
“Our Beach detail officers Yi and Margin found the abandoned camp of the believed arsonist at 4 a.m. The PPTFH team met everyone and cleaned up the area and removed the hidden tent from under the palm fronds. The investigation is ongoing, and progress is being made to catch the individual that set the fires.”
These are not warming fires that are being set by the homeless. A May 12 L.A. Times story (“24 Fires a Day: Surge in Flames at L.A. Homeless Encampments a Growing Crisis”), noted that in 2020, seven homeless people died in fires.
The story stated, “Many of the fires are limited to dumpsters and piles of trash, and the most common outcome is the destruction of tents or other shelter … Fires starting in camps lined beside businesses have caused tens of millions of dollars in damage, according to the Fire Department.”
Part of the problem, according to the Times, is the proximity to tent fabric and other piles of flammable material to cooking stoves and campfires. The story also pointed out that “A third of the 15,610 fires related to homelessness in the past 3 ¼ years were classified as arson.
“In the three years since the Los Angeles Fire Department began classifying them, fires related to homelessness have nearly tripled. In the first quarter of 2021, they occurred at a rate of 24 a day, making up 54 percent of all fires the department responded to,” the Times said.
“Over the three years, such fires classified as arson have steadily comprised about one-third of the total. As fires related to homelessness have increased, though, the raw number of arson fires has more than doubled, to 2,258 last year — about one of every six fires in the city. Arrests are rare — 129 and 174 over the past two years, a clearance rate of about 6%.”
No camping is allowed in the mountains and brush surrounding Pacific Palisades because this is classified as a very high fire severity zone. Disaster was narrowly averted in the Huntington Palisades in 2014, when a revenge fire set by a homeless individual raced up the hillside and closed Pacific Coast Highway. In November 2015, a second fire, started by the homeless in the parkland below the Via de las Olas bluffs, resulted in the evacuation of homes off Friends Street.