Downtown L.A. residents say Skid Row fires are being ignored

Homes had to burn down in Bel-Air for the Los Angeles city government to finally pay attention to the dangers of out of control homeless encampments.

That fire was caused by an illegal cooking fire at an encampment in the Sepulveda Pass. in the aftermath, Mayor Eric Garcetti and fire officials set out a plan to clear tents and camps from hillside areas.

The action taken after the Bel-Air fire has angered business leaders downtown, who say that fires on Skid Row are a daily problem that City Hall has ignored.

Bel Air fire caused by illegal cooking fire at encampment - Thumbnail Image

Bel Air fire caused by illegal cooking fire at encampment

Estela Lopez, executive director of Downtown Industrial Business Improvement District, said at a recent neighborhood council meeting:

"The city did the right thing after the Skirball fire, but human life and property should have the same value [everywhere]."

Business owners in Skid Row say fires start when homeless people cook, try to stay warm, or use drugs. Some of the fires are intentionally set.

Last month a sidewalk tent went up in flames and the blaze spread to a seafood warehouse. The fire burned down a homeless encampment and caused about $2,500 in damage to the warehouse.

There were 60 fires in Skid Row last year, according to the Downtown Industrial Business Improvement District. The Los Angeles Fire Department has even higher numbers, with 3 to 5 fires reported a day. 

It's a mix of trash, encampment, and building fires, says LAFD Battalion Chief Mike Castillo. 

Harvey Monastirsky's beer warehouse was damaged in a 2012 fire that was caused by a man who was angry with a prostitute, so he set fire to a nearby tent.

Monastirsky's insurance company dropped him after he filed the claim, and had to resort to aluminum siding to prevent damage from future fires. Surveillance cameras from his business show homeless people are still making fires next to his building.

Click here to read more at the L.A. Times.

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