As Southern California grapples with a homeless crisis thats seen encampments spread through the regionlike wildfire, officials have turned their focus towardcamps in high-risk areas for literalwildfires,in hopes ofaverting an even greater disaster in the future.
Municipal cleanup crews in Los Angeles targeted a 13-acre area Monday in the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve in the San Fernando Valley, a high-risk fire area where there have already been two blazes this year.
Anyone who lives in and around this area knows that this area is incredibly dangerous in case a fire ever erupts, Councilwoman Nury Martinez, who represents the area, told reporters. With the current winter season coming up, were also very concerned about the flooding that occurs in this area. This is a flood zone.
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About 60 acres were burned in a blaze that erupted on Oct. 24. About 10 acres burned in another fire in July when a propane tank exploded, causing the brush to catch fire.
The recent fires are a reminder that we need to keep this effort going to protect the safety of everyone, Martinez said.
The cleanup operation that began Monday is expected to last three or four days and is the third sweep of the reserve that officials have made in recent months due to the dangerous situation for encampments that have cropped in the area.
Its scary for the fires and some people smoke, area resident Elvia Valley told FOX11. They dont care, they put cigarettes on leaves.
During the first cleanup in August, the Los Angeles Police Departments bomb squad had to be called in when a grenade was discovered in themore than 140 tons of trash collected, FOX11 reported at the time. Another sweep in the Haskell Creek area removed a total of 391 tons of trash and green waste from the area.
In addition to dismantling the homeless encampments in the area, Los Angeles officials said they are offering shelter services to those in need.But those such as 64-year-old Alvaro Giron said Monday he was planning to come right back to the area after the cleanup.
Because I feel free here, he told FOX11.
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According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the city saw a 16 percent increase in people experiencing homelessness from 2018 to 2019, with more than36,000 peoplein this years count. Los Angeles County saw a 12 percent increase overall in the same time period, with some 58,900 people experiencing homelessness.
Being homeless in the L.A.-area is also growing deadlier. TheLos Angeles CountyDepartment ofPublic Healthsaid in a report released Tuesday that between 2013 and 2018 the number of homeless deaths doubled from 536 to 1,047. The overall death rate, which takes into accountincreases in the total homeless population in the area, was up by over a third in that same period.
Put simply, being homeless in LA County is becoming increasingly deadly,the reports authors noted.
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City officials are looking to another cleanup in the reserve, coordinating with Californias Fish and Wildlife Department to get approvals for a 34-acre area along Encino Creek.
Area residents such asGlen Rice, who uses popular trails in the Sepulveda Basin, said people arent unsympathetic to the homeless, but that they just want to see a cleanup thats long overdue.
We pay taxes, I think we have a right to have a nice clean park and be able to use it when we want and feel safe, he told FOX11.B: