Palisades Fire renews criticism by some residents over LA councilman's homeless plan

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. (KABC) -- As the homeless crisis continues in Los Angeles, firefighters recently reported they have been responding to an increasing number of fires at encampments.

The brush fire in Pacific Palisades that forced evacuations is bringing renewed focus to the issue in the area. On Tuesday, 48-year-old Ramon Rodriguez, who investigators say is homeless, was charged in connection with the blaze that's charred over 1,100 acres in the Santa Monica Mountains.

"We saw him making multiple additional sets of fires throughout that area," said LAFD Capt. Erik Scott. "Then we actually brought in sheriff's to come in and rappel from helicopters into the brush to apprehend him, but the fire ended up exploding."

Rodriguez has been charged with arson. LAFD says Rodriguez is a person experiencing homelessness, but does not live at an encampment in the fire zone.

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Pacific Palisades residents opposed to a proposal by Councilmember Mike Bonin to move some residents of the homeless community to Will Rogers State Beach believe that plan could lead to more brush fires.

"We know that often times in emergency shelters there are homeless who do not like to comply with the rules and the boundaries given," said Jessica Rogers, the president of the Pacific Palisades Residents Association.

"If they get released from the shelter, the first place that would make most sense for them to go would be to walk across the street and go into the hillsides where there are already encampments," said Rogers.

But no encampment has been located in or around the Palisades Fire zone, and Bonin tells Eyewitness News the best way to prevent encampment fires is to get the homeless off the streets.

"I don't think the fact that the person was homeless is relevant to the crime of arson. If this were an encampment fire, I can see folks making the link. This was an arson, a deliberate intentional act. A person committed arson. Their housing status didn't," said Bonin.

The majority of the fires LAFD has responded to this year have been at homeless encampments, but Bonin stresses the beach proposal won't be an unregulated encampment.

"All of them include sanitation, security and services to get people the help they need and get them off the street into housing," said Bonin.

Containment for the Palisades Fire increased to 47% Tuesday evening. Firefighters plan to stay on scene the next few days to make sure there aren't any flare-ups.

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