Los Angeles

LA Mayor Asks for I-Team's Help in Fixing Fire Hydrants Damaged by Homeless

The mayor of Los Angeles is making new promises in the wake of an I-Team investigation that exposed fire hydrants being disabled by the homeless, possibly rendering them useless if a fire breaks out and increasing the fire threat linked to the city's many homeless encampments.

Mayor Eric Garcetti personally asked for the I-Team's help in identifying hydrants that have been damaged by the homeless Monday.

Firefighters tell NBCLA that hydrants in good working condition are a critical tool, especially with the hottest days of summer still to come.

On a hot summer day, the I-Team's cameras captured a homeless man filling a five-gallon jug from a hydrant, with water that is supposed to be used to fight fires. What's most alarming is that workers replaced a disabled hydrant in the exact spot one week earlier.

The I-Team also observed as people illegally tapped into the brand new hydrant, rendering the hydrant useless if a fire was to break out.

"Most of them still work well," Garcetti told the I-Team. "Those that aren't, we're replacing."

More than a month ago, the I-Team exposed the problem of the homeless hijacking hydrants and electrical wires, a high-risk way to provide water and power for their sidewalk tents. Because of that investigation, the mayor "directed the fire department to immediately survey (damaged) hydrants and power lines near high-density (homeless) encampments" so they could be fixed.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power says it fixed 11 hydrants identified by the fire department.

In the last week, however, the I-Team found numerous damaged hydrants the city failed to identify and fix, including one on Crocker Avenue where a woman was filling water balloons, enough to fill a shopping cart. Another woman used the hydrant to take a bath. At another hydrant on Towne Avenue, people were filling water bottles.

Even when the hydrants are fixed, it doesn't last long. Hours after the DWP fixed a hydrant on 5th Street and Gladys Avenue, homeless people had damaged it again and were using it to fill buckets. While that was happening, a DWP truck passed by and did nothing to intervene or fix the hydrant.

So, Monday, the I-Team questioned the mayor about why so many hydrants are still damaged.

Garcetti responded, "Well, if you have some that we don't know about...Give us those. I'll make sure those get fixed."

Asked to clarify if he would fix hydrants if provided a list from the I-Team, the mayor promised, "Absolutely, 100% we will."

In the days and weeks to come, the I-Team will be keeping a close eye to see if the mayor keeps that promise, along with all the other promises he's been making in connection with LA's homeless crisis.

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