Parents concerned about abandoned fire station next to Encino school; many fear squatters

In the last month, parents told Eyewitness News a man has been seen jumping the school's fence to access the property.

Josh Haskell Image
Wednesday, May 31, 2023
Fire at abandoned Encino fire station sparks concerns over squatters
The station is located next to Encino Charter Elementary School and parents say they believe a homeless person may have sparked a fire there recently, prompting a lockdown at the school.

ENCINO, Calif. (KABC) -- It was a frightening afternoon last Friday for the 530 Encino Charter Elementary School students when an abandoned fire station next to their school caught fire.

"That was definitely scary," said parent Morgan Smith. "We did our best to make sure all the kids were safe. The school called an announcement to get all kids inside so that they were not dealing with the smoke out here."

The fire station has been abandoned for roughly 10 years after the new fire station 83 opened across the street.

L.A.'s homeless population is known for frequenting the vacant building, located on Balboa Boulevard and Addison Street.

In the last month, parents told Eyewitness News a man has been seen jumping the school's fence to access the property and he's made many in the community, uncomfortable.

"We absolutely do not want someone like this hanging out near our school," said Smith. "We have requested increased LAPD patrols of the area. I know our school police has been on campus a lot more so we're hoping they catch him."

Parents fear something dangerous could happen next.

"The unknown of who this person is and what is he capable of, does he have weapons? Does he not? It's really the concern of the parents," said parent Sanaz Jadian. "Who is he? Get him away from our school."

Parents think the transient man is responsible for the fire.

In fact, Councilwoman Nithya Raman's office told Eyewitness News they were alerted of what the vacant building was being used for and sent their homeless team for outreach last Friday morning.

Shortly after their visit, the fire started.

"Difficult conversation to have with our kids that, he's homeless. He could be on the drugs. If you see it, you need run get an adult. Let's call 911," said Jadian.

ABC7 has learned the Armenian Cultural Foundation has leased the abandoned fire station for 30 years. It pays the city of Los Angeles $1 per year.

They're finalizing plans to renovate the building so it can be used for elderly services in the morning and arts and dance programs in the afternoon.

However, the process is slow, which has made it a target for the unhoused.

In a statement, the Los Angeles Unified School District said, "In response to recent safety incidents, we have fortified our school perimeter with the help of our facilities team. In addition, we recently added a buzzer at the school entrance to ensure all visitors are screened before they enter our campus."