VENICE, CA — A fire spread from a homeless encampment along the Venice Beach boardwalk early Wednesday, with more than 100 firefighters battling the flames as the sun was rising over the sand.
It took firefighters nearly two and half hours to knock down the fire at the 68-year-old, two-story building at 723 S. Ocean Front Walk, near Park Avenue, Los Angeles Fire Department officials said. No injuries were reported.
The structure was heavily damaged and is now unstable, according to the LAFD. No damage estimate was immediately available.
The fire also briefly threatened to damage two buildings nearby, including at least one residence, but firefighters were able to stop it, officials said. People were evacuated at those adjacent buildings near the fire as a crowd gathered on the sand to watch firefighters and the tall flames.
Alexander Poe lives off the boardwalk in Venice and has asked city leaders to help protect both housed and unhoused people living in the area. Locals have been concerned about recent fires at encampments throughout the pandemic.
"Neighbors and firefighters have been talking about the danger of this happening for a long time as the camps have grown and grown," Poe told Patch.
"There have been many fires at this exact camp and no one could do anything about it because of [L.A. City Councilman Mike] Bonin's interpretation of the CDC guidelines," Poe said. "It seems to me the CDC concern is unhoused people pushed out of one area bringing COVID to another area but the previous comprehensive cleanups never pushed anyone off the boardwalk. They moved their stuff for an hour to my street a block off the boardwalk, then they moved right back an hour later. It wasn't perfect but it did prevent the camps from accumulating huge amounts of stuff and becoming fire traps."
Bonin Tuesday made the motion to stop the city's mandatory cleanups of homeless encampments and replace them with voluntary, service-based protocols that are in compliance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
"I've seen the voluntary cleanups, they pick up very little and do nothing to mitigate fire hazards," Poe said.
Unhoused people need help, and the city needs to take action, Poe added.
"These problems didn't start with the pandemic, the pandemic just showed how broken the existing systems to help people were," Poe said.
Patch reached out to Bonin's office for comment on the recent fires and homeless encampments.
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