Westlake residents call on officials to clean up homeless encampment after fire causes damage

Josh Haskell Image
Saturday, June 22, 2024
Burned down Westlake homeless encampment fire frustrates residents
Frustrated Westlake residents are calling on city officials to address a homeless encampment after a fire caused damage on Rampart Boulevard.

WESTLAKE, Calif. (KABC) -- An increasing number of homeless encampment fires are threatening Los Angeles neighborhoods after another incident occurred in Westlake.

The latest fire on Rampart Boulevard near 3rd Street happened early Friday morning, causing damage to a neighboring business and car.

"I get mad because the city, even the police, don't do s***," Westlake resident Dennis Fernandez said.

These growing frustrations come after residents reached out to the city to warn them about fires but had no luck, despite the encampment existing for over 6 months.

"It's filthy. I don't know what's going to jump out of it, I don't know," LaCreasha Lawrence said. "So I walk all the way around. I don't trust my daughter to go to the bus stop so I just take her to school. It's bad, it's everywhere - and everytime you turn around, if they clean it, they put it right back."

Jae Son is the property manager for the commercial building next to the encampment. It's unknown how the fire started, but property manager Jae Son captured video of a previous fire at the encampment, saying it's been an ongoing issue.

"This was our main concern - the property was going to be damaged because there were so many fire incidents. Sanitation came out, they gave the homeless people 30 minutes to move to the side and they did a little clean up," Son said. "Right after 30 minutes they come right back to set the tents again. I complained to the police department, sanitation, the city, sent out emails and nothing happens."

When Eyewitness News arrived at the scene, whoever lived at the burned out encampment was gone. However, one resident said they moved one block away to start a new encampment.

"Our office is coordinating with the department of sanitation to clear the area of debris. This location receives regular cleanings from the department of sanitation, including a recent cleaning this Monday," Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez's office wrote in a statement. "Our office will continue to schedule regular cleanings at our high fire-risk and sensitive encampments to ensure the safety of residents and local businesses."

Despite the city's efforts, residents are still unsatisfied with the encampment's ongoing issues that prevent them from using the sidewalk.

"We called a couple times, My daughter called a couple times, my neighbor called a couple times," Fernandez said, adding that the city said "we're looking into it, but that was it. We'll take care of it."