Community members report that the fires have occurred in campers, tents, grassy encampments and along railroad tracks. David Matthews, a community advocate, said that there has been at least one fire per week in the area before the recent uptick. Since last Thursday, there have been four fires per day within a one-mile radius of the interchange between the 105 and 110 freeways. According to Matthews, all of the fires are arson, with most taking place in the middle of the night.
In one of the fires, a woman suffered third-degree burns, and a dog living in the RV did not survive. The owner was rushed to the hospital’s burn unit. Homeless outreach comes to the area every couple of weeks, with cleanups and a county plan meant to address homelessness. Despite these efforts, neighbors and business owners remain skeptical that the encampments will be safe or healthy for the community anytime soon.
Homeless advocate Amber Sam stated that people living in RVs resort to illegal dumping because they have no resources for proper disposal of their trash. Sam believes that providing dumpsters on every block or taking different measures to help dispose of the trash could be a more effective solution. As the cleanup effort continues, it is clear that more work needs to be done to improve the lives of those living in the Harbor Gateway homeless encampments.