san fernando valley

Multi-Day Cleanup Begins at Sepulveda Basin Homeless Encampment

Crews will be in the Haskell Creek area starting Monday

A cleanup that might continue for three days was underway Monday at a homeless encampment in the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve, where a brush fire broke out over the summer and more than 140 tons of trash were collected during a previous cleanup.

Crews were in the Haskell Creek area Monday morning. The cleanup at the San Fernando Valley location is expected to last two to three days.

It is illegal to camp overnight in the area, according to city code. The reserve has hour of operation for visitors from sunrise to sunset. 

It’s been a week and a half since a cleanup in the Sepulveda Basin after a fire started by a homeless encampment. But did the city really clear it out or have some encampments remained or just moved right back. John Cádiz Klemack reports for the NBC4 News on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019.

On July 30, a 10-acre brush fire burned in the basin. The fire forced the nearby closures of a busway and part of Burbank Boulevard.

No injuries were reported, but propane tanks and an inert grenade were found when cleanup teams entered the homeless encampment.

The reserve is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks leases a majority of the reserve as park space. Having people living there has created a "dangerous situation" for the encampment inhabitants, visitors who want to use the park and residents, according to Los Angeles City Councilwoman Nury Martinez.

Rick Coca, communications director for Martinez, said more than a dozen people are living in the Haskell Creek area. He said outreach efforts are taking place in hopes of finding temporary housing for the people living in the area.

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Fires that start in Los Angeles' homeless encampments pose a serious safety threat because they often spread to nearby apartments, homes, businesses and other buildings.

The NBC4 I-Team has been tracking the number of homeless fires the last two years. Data for 2018 shows a 211 percent increase in the number of these fires from the previous year. LA firefighters are now extinguishing almost seven fires a day started at homeless encampments or tents in neighborhoods across the city.

The map below, illustrating fires that started at homeless encampments in 2018, shows just how widespread the problem is in Los Angeles County. You can zoom in on the map to see how big the problem is in your neighborhood or near where you work. 

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